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Summary from the WiPS Networking event at LPSC 2019

May 12, 2019

Thanks up front to our wonderful speakers, everyone who helped organize the event this year, and to everyone who attended!  Dr. Nicolle Zellner led the organization this year, but the full team listed below helped with many aspects of the event. Big thanks to the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences for continuing to sponsor the event. It wouldn’t be such a fabulous event without all of those things!

The below post was thoughtfully written by Dr. Rajani Dhingra:

The Women in Planetary Science (WiPS) event this year celebrated the women scientists who have contributed to Planetary Science since the Apollo Era. The panelists invited were Dr. Carle Pieters (Brown University), Andrea Mosie (Johnson Space Center), and Judy Allton (Johnson Space Center). Emily Lakdawalla (Planetary Society) was the panel moderator.


Dr. Nicolle Zellner started the event by remembering Dr. Susan Neiber, who provides the inspiration for these annual events. She also advertised the Workforce Development poster session which included several posters that highlight advancements and efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the field of Planetary Science.

Emily started the panel by asking what the panelists’ first LPSC experience was like?

Read more…

Announcing the 11th Annual Susan Niebur WiPS Networking Event – LPSC 2019

February 26, 2019

This year, in honor of the 50th anniversary of LPSC, eminent women who worked at NASA and/or participated in LPSCs since the beginning (or near to it) will share their experiences. Join us for what’s sure to be an exciting panel discussion.

When: Wednesday, March 20, 2019; 5:30 to ~7:30 pm
Where: Waterway 1-3 (in the Conference Venue – Woodlands Waterway Marriott, The Woodlands, TX)
Light snacks/appetizers will be served thanks to generous sponsorship from the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences – Thank you!

This event is open to all!

Please forward this invitation/sign-up to your colleagues and friends who might be interested.  Registration is not required but we would like to get some idea of numbers. Anyone is welcome to come late or leave early if they need.   More info and registration at:

Congressional Gold Medal Nomination for the FLATs

February 13, 2019

Starting in 1960, 13 experienced female pilots underwent many of the same physical and psychological tests as the Mercury 7 astronauts and often performed better. Though they never flew in space, the First Lady Astronaut Trainess (FLATs), also known as “the Mercury 13”, provided evidence that women would be able to tolerate space’s extreme environments.

The Congressional Gold Medal, our nation’s highest civilian honor, has been given over 200 times. Fewer than 10% of the medals have been received by women, however, and just five have been awarded for outstanding contributions in air and space exploration. The good news is that legislation to award Gold Medals to the “Hidden Figures” is moving forward and the better news is that momentum is building to also support a nomination for the FLATs.

Learn more about the nomination and these trail-blazing women here, or visit the Women in Astronomy page and the NASA History Office.

You could also watch the 2018 Netflix documentary or read Martha Ackmann’s book.

If you think these women are worthy of a nomination and a Medal, please sign the petition and/or contact your representative to let him/her/them know you support this effort. And please help to spread the word. Thank you!

Summary of DPS 2018 Planetary Allyship Meeting

January 20, 2019

The following article was written by the event organizers, Brian Jackson, David Grinspoon, Bob Pappalardo, and Matt Tiscareno.

On Thursday, Oct 25, during the 2018 annual Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) conference in Knoxville TN, the Planetary Science Allyship group held its fourth annual meeting to discuss how people in non-marginalized groups can support equity in the scientific community. The meeting was included in the official DPS schedule and advertised in the program:

Please join us for discussion about harassment, bias, and what we can do to help change the culture. All DPS members are welcome, with the goal of continuing a conversation among men about how we can raise awareness and be proactive on these issues.

The gathering attracted 13 attendees, roughly split between men and women, and the discussion lasted for about 1.5 hours and was facilitated by Matthew Tiscareno and Brian Jackson. The meeting was less formal than previous meetings — Tiscareno had assembled a rough outline of discussion topics, but attendees were invited to interrupt with their thoughts and ideas.

Of particular importance, Tiscareno began the meeting by suggesting that “allyship” would be better than “allies” as a name for the group. Allyship is a principle to which we aspire, while claiming the label of “allies” would presume a positive judgment of our efforts.

The discussion then highlighted the magnitude of the task facing groups like ours, to undo thousands of years of building a society structured to benefit certain groups. Even if attitudes changed overnight, social constructs still need significant re-tooling to benefit and support groups traditionally marginalized.

Mention was made of the Parable of the Polygons, an experiment showing that even with no biases among groups, a society structured by historical segregation is unlikely to spontaneously de-segregate. The experiment illustrates the importance of restructuring society and not just changing attitudes. A conscious and long-term effort to mix is required, just as a long-term effort by those with privilege in the scientific community is needed to spread societal benefits as broadly as possible.

The group also discussed the importance of amplifying the voices of those who too often aren’t heard, rather than just stepping in. One way to strike this balance is to explicitly echo ideas and credit the originator, a strategy employed by female White House staffers during Obama’s presidency, “when a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.”

Those with privilege should also feel a duty to “collect your people”; that is, those with privilege should stand up and confront privileged others when they say or do something that reinforces marginalization. Those with privilege aspiring to allyship can leverage their commonality with the  person whose actions require intervention, which may (or may not) result in a better hearing.

Whether an intervention seems efficacious, the effects on targeted people and/or bystanders must also be considered. Those who may have been targeted might feel supported that the problematic speech or action did not go unchallenged and might be spared the emotional labor of confronting the problem themselves, while potential allies who took no action in that situation might be encouraged to do more in the future.

Finally, the allyship group discussed specific actions we could take back to our home institutions and communities, while recognizing that progress toward inclusivity cannot be treated as a series of checkboxes or action items.

We must work to establish relationships with people who are from different social groups and to listen to their perspective, rather than assuming we know what’s needed. Those of us from non-marginalized backgrounds must recognize the dangers of “saviorism” and seek to amplify others rather than our own perspectives. We must promote excellence, especially when it might be undervalued, and should try to nominate folks from historically unrecognized groups for prizes and academic honors. And we should help establish policies and procedures within our institutions that promote equity, diversity, and inclusivity (EDI). For example, using pre-written rubrics and broadly worded job advertisements in the academic hiring process can reduce implicit bias that often masquerades as gut feelings or post-hoc justifications.

Finally, some immediately actionable items were discussed, including

  1. Volunteer to work on EDI-promoting projects as defined by groups such as the DPS Professional Culture and Climate Subcommittee (PCCS), such as taking data on the patterns of people who ask questions at meetings or crunching numbers to characterize patterns of privilege in our field. If you are interested in joining this effort, contact Matt Tiscareno.
  2. Establish a channel for the Allyship group to continue communicating through the year.  The focus of such a group would be for people who have privilege in our society to support each other in efforts to use it well. If you would like to participate, contact Matt Tiscareno.
  3. Look for opportunities to amplify, support, and learn from marginalized voices.  This can be in your own workplace, in meetings such as DPS, or in meetings that are specifically configured to center perspectives of people who are usually marginalized.

Congratulations to the New Horizons and OSIRIS-REx Teams

January 2, 2019

Just when you think space can’t get any cooler, both New Horizons and OSIRIS-REx got just a little bit closer to targets that will most likely answer questions about the origin and evolution of our solar system.

On December 31, 2018 (7:43 UTC), OSIRIS-REx entered a 62-hour orbit that carries it to within ~1 mile of asteroid Bennu’s surface.  Read more about the insertion here and see the list of OSIRIS-REx team members here.

Around the same time, New Horizons was flying by Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, aka Ultima Thule or “Peanut”, the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft. The New Horizons team is also pretty cool: women make up ~30% of the staff and ~25% of the mission’s science leadership. See pictures and read interviews with some of our colleagues here.


Best wishes to you all in 2019!fireworks.3

Pellas-Ryder Student Paper Award Nomination Deadline January 31st 2019

December 20, 2018

It is time again to nominate deserving students for this award!   The 2019 Pellas-Ryder award, which is sponsored jointly by the Meteoritical Society and the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America, will be awarded to an undergraduate or graduate student who is first author of the best planetary science paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal in 2018. The award has been given since 2001, and honors the memories of meteoriticist Paul Pellas and lunar scientist Graham Ryder.

To nominate a student-led publication that was published in 2018, two letters of certification are required: (1) From the student’s department head attesting that the individual was a student at the time of paper submission to the publishing journal; (2) From the student’s advisor detailing the portion of the work done by the student and contributed by others including the advisor. Additional details are provided here:

Nominations can be made directly to the Chair of the Selection Committee. Submissions for consideration should be sent (as PDF documents) by email to Prof. Jon M. Friedrich.

Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship – due Nov. 15th

November 1, 2018

Hello All,

Just a reminder that the deadline for the Amelia Earhart fellowship is approaching – several planetary scientists have been awarded fellowships in the past :).

Thanks to Ella Sciamma O’Brien for sharing this info.