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Planetary Allies – Men’s Auxiliary: a summary from the 2017 DPS meeting

August 4, 2018

The following article was was written by the event organizers: Brian Jackson, David Grinspoon, Bob Pappalardo, and Matt Tiscareno.  Thanks to the organizers and everyone who attended for a great event!  We look forward more great discussion in the future!

On Oct 29 during the 2017 annual Division of Planetary Sciences conference in Provo UT, the Planetary Science Allyship group, “the Men’s Auxiliary”, held a meeting to map out future actions its attendees could undertake to help increase diversity and tolerance in the academic community. Unlike previous years, we chose to place our meeting into the official DPS schedule, and the meeting was advertised with the following announcement on the conference bulletin boards:

Planetary Allies – Men’s Auxiliary

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. This year’s discussion has the goal of transitioning from consciousness-raising to acting, so please come prepared with ideas for moving forward.

The gathering attracted approximately 25 men and several women, with attendees from new graduate students to scientists nearing retirement, and the discussion lasted for about 2 hours. The discussion was facilitated by Andy Rivkin, David Grinspoon, Brian Jackson and Matthew Tiscareno. Bob Pappalardo also helped to organize the session but was unable to attend. Kelsi Singer kindly attended as well and provided us with valuable input from the Women in Planetary Sciences group, and Sarah Horst spoke about the initiative she and others were leading to offer bystander training at major planetary science conferences.

While our discussions at previous meetings focused on interactions at conferences and what we could do to help establish a safe and respectful environment in terms of recognizing and preventing problematic behaviors, this time we wanted to try to magnify and spread our impact by sharing and providing ideas for specific and concrete efforts that members could take back to their home institutions.

Attendees offered a large number of suggestions, sparking animated, spontaneous discussion, with topics ranging from the most recent literature on fighting harassment to the techniques used during the Civil Rights Era. Then, the facilitators circled back and grouped together suggestions, underlining those that seemed key and most promising. During this phase, further discussion ensued about how these actions might be undertaken effectively.

In addition to tentative plans to host bystander intervention and implicit bias trainings at future DPS meetings (as well as LPSC and AGU), the group spent considerable time discussing issues of inclusive hiring practices raised earlier at the Women in Planetary Sciences lunch during the presentation on unconscious bias by guest speaker Prof. Sarah Thébaud of UCSB. Suggested best practices include taking care in writing job ads not to unintentionally filter out folks, anonymizing applications, starting applicant evaluations with research and teaching statements instead of CVs, and hosting implicit bias training workshops for hiring committees.

Another set of actions discussed is to learn more about specific resources at home institutions, given that many organizations already have groups devoted to diversity and inclusiveness and hiring practices (e.g., Boise State’s Office of STEM and Diversity Initiatives – https://stem.boisestate.edu/). Attendees were advised to consider refusing to serve on all-male panels, whether professional or outreach, and were admonished to directly and openly challenge destructive behavior as they observed it (for instance, if bullying behavior is occurring during a colloquium).

The group highlighted the fact that an effort to broaden participation and comfort in the scientific community should not be considered as completing a series of checkboxes but rather a long-term process requiring sustained and informed commitment. Our efforts are an attempt to use the privilege we have to help form a more equitable community and discipline, not about centering our feelings as we make our way forward. While this is obvious to the communities at risk from the systemic issues we discuss, it is something we need to internalize to truly show “Planetary Allyship”.

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