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Summary from 2016 LPSC WiPS Event

April 15, 2016

The topic for this year’s event was implicit or unconscious bias.  We had two great presentations and a discussion, summarized below.

1. Dr. Gale Allen (Deputy Chief Scientist) on NASA’s Demographic Data Initiative

Gale opened with statistics on the percentage of women at various career levels in STEM fields (decreasing with increasing career level).  She reiterated the NASA position of not funding universities that do not comply with Title 9 policies.

About the Demographic Data Initiative: NSF and other agencies already collect demographic data – and this is an initiative to have NASA do the same.  These studies can reveal potential unconscious bias in grant awards.  Gale outlined more of the history of these studies in her slides.

Survey Info:

  • The survey has only a few questions and is strictly voluntary.  That said, in order to get good info/statistics out of these studies is helpful if people participate.
  • The information and is completely separated from the proposals and a 3rd party will evaluate it.  The panel will never see it.
  • Every time you submit a proposal on nspires you will have an opportunity to submit a form and/or revise your answers.
  • At the moment gender only has a binary answer choice, but they will add a new category when the form is revised for those who do not identify this way.
  • Race is a check box and the proposer may choose as many options as are applicable.
  • The eventual goal is to compare the number of selected awards to the number submitted for different demographic categories.  This information will be presented when enough data is collected to be statistically significant.

2. Meagan Thompson (NASA Senior Scientist and Program Officer) on Implicit Bias

Meagan highlighted some of the key characteristics of implicit bias, some studies specifically related to gender bias, and strategies for mitigating personal bias.  You can see these in her slides, and also links to resources including a very helpful google seminar talk available on youtube (talk is by Howard Ross, founder and Chief Learning Officer of Cook Ross Inc.).   There is an additional useful video by a google analytics team member than can be found here.

Some Highlights:

  • There were many kinds of bias brought up in the discussions that different people had experienced, including: gender, socioeconomic, regional, racial, appearance, accent, disability, illness, age, flexibility needs, etc.
  • We tend to be biased towards favoring your in-group – but even within that group you may have biases – for example: sometimes women are harder on women because we all have societal biases built in.
  • The more you think you cannot be biased (for whatever reason, you are educated, you are part of a minority group) – the more likely you are to not notice your own bias.
  • Some suggestions for shining a flashlight on your own biases (described more in the slides and above youtube videos) are:
    • accept that you (along with everyone) has biases, and remove guilt from the equation
    • try to discover your own biases (for example, with the Harvard Implicit Bias online test)
    • practice pausing and considering your own biases
    • engage with people you consider to be “other” and expose yourself to exemplars from that group
    • give feedback – point out bias when you see it

From the discussion:

  • Please share resources your institutions might have on implicit bias training.  You can also try to implement these at your institution – changing the climate doesn’t have to come from the top down.
  • For a more general faculty searches, redact first names and other info (if possible) so that the first look by the search committee doesn’t necessarily know specific demographics of the applicants.
  • It is difficult to deal with situations in which someone states that a minority candidate was given a job just because they are a minority, or that there is basically favorable bias towards minorities.  Some suggestions offered for combating this are to show them all the studies that disprove this positive bias, and that this is a great place for allies in the majority community to step up.


3. Other Announcements

–> There is an open letter dealing with issues of sexual harassment in the community and asking senior members of the to help change the system – Everyone is invited to take a look and sign to show your support.  The letter does not presently have a closing date, but they would like to publish in Eos and other venues, so the more signatures the better!

–> A big thanks goes to the Division for Planetary Sciences for generous sponsorship of the refreshments!  If you are not already a member, check out their great resources at


And, of course, Thank You! to our two speakers, our organizers/helpers, and everyone who attended the event – your input is what makes this event rock :).  See you next time!

**Please contribute comments and additions below – I apologize if I missed something!

Organizing Committee:

Zibi Turtle
Kelsi Singer
Sarah Noble
Nicolle Zellner
Jennifer Grier
Mallory Kinczyk
Hannah Susorney



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