The following post was contributed by Andy Rivkin, Bob Pappalardo, and David Grinspoon.
For the second consecutive year, we held a “Men’s Auxiliary” event at the DPS meeting as a way to discuss harassment and bias issues, and to foster allyship and better awareness and support. We look forward to reporting on the event in this blog, as we did last year. In this post, however, we are separately addressing a topic that served as an unavoidable backdrop and discussion spur for our gathering: the then-upcoming and now-recent US elections. While our individual politics and personal responses may vary, those of us in more privileged positions in our community should be aware of and not dismiss our colleagues’ concerns, and must be vigilant in taking action to minimize bias and harassment.
The actions and upcoming policies of a Trump Administration are only poorly understood by the public, and some have called for a wait-and-see attitude. However, damage has already been done to more vulnerable communities including people of color, the disabled, LBGTQ people, immigrants, religious minorities, and all women. While we focus on the latter group here, our concerns are with the other communities as well. It is not news that the election campaign was extraordinarily vindictive toward specific women (such as Alicia Machado and Elizabeth Warren) with unprecedented bile directed toward Hillary Clinton.
There are obvious lessons and parallels for men in science to learn and confront. Many have ruefully noted that the most qualified person in America, who happens to be a woman, was passed over for a promotion that was given to a less-qualified man. How many times has this happened in our own departments and institutions, if less publicly and with more deniability? Testimony of sexual assault from several women, and video and audio evidence of sexual harassment and bullying, were made available, and were seemingly forgotten as ostensibly-neutral pundits muddied the waters and the personal lives of apparent victims were investigated. How many times have brave women in science trusted the system and reported harassment (or worse) by powerful men only to be asked for “proof,” and find their complaints waved away as “a disagreement” and violations left unpunished? How many of us congratulate ourselves for clearing the bar of not being as bad as Donald Trump, while acting like Billy Bush?
Some have called this a “post-truth” election. But as scientists, we are trained to be critical thinkers. The gaslighting on a national scale that has occurred over the campaign is likely to continue, but we have an obligation to support our colleagues and trust them when they say they’re hurting. We must not tell them to “relax” or that they’re overreacting, especially given very real concerns that the election results may normalize some of the worst behaviors seen during the campaign.
More than that, we are under an obligation to improve matters in our field. We have been saying for years that we are committed to eliminating bias, but we have been slow to take concrete steps in our societies to do so. Studies from people like Dana Hurley, Julie Rathbun, Ferdinando Patat, and I. Neill Reid show that women are significantly underrepresented in planetary missions and do worse in telescope applications than expected from an unbiased process. We must speak up when bias or harassment is recognized, and advocate more strongly and regularly for implicit bias training in our institutions and societies as a requirement for membership in leadership positions, in conference organizing committees, and in prize committees. Similarly, we must encourage bystander training for members of our community. We must make resources readily available for those who are interested in taking such training, and increase the pool of people who have taken such training.
We do not know how dangerous or uncomfortable the coming years will be for women and minorities, including in planetary science. However, the steps we should take would not be wasted in any administration. We know from years of evidence that change does not come unbidden, and it is evident that things will not get better by themselves. It is incumbent upon us to confront ourselves in order to achieve full support of, and respect for, all our colleagues.
Columns in the main entrance lobby of MIT are currently covered in shared hopes, fears, and questions of that school’s community, many of them centered on women’s and minority disquiet about the recent campaign. Communities throughout academia have similar concerns about the directions that a Trump Administration may take.
Thank you Andy, Bob, and David for your sincere thoughts!
The new DPS sub-committee on Professional Culture and Climate implemented many ideas at the 2016 meeting in Pasadena, some of which were: a plenary talk featured in this post, more prominent displays of the anti-harassment policy at the meeting entrances, a hotline for reporting harassment incidents, and additional questions about the meeting climate on the post-meeting survey. The meeting survey will be e-mailed to attendees in the near future, please take a moment to fill it out!
Dr. Patricia Knezek insightful talk outlines the prevalence and importance of unconscious bias, what it is (and what it is not), demographic data (including some for planetary science by Julie Rathbun and others), and what we can do to mitigate unconscious bias.
If you have not already taken the Harvard Implicit Association Test, it is an interesting way to test your own biases (and not just for gender bias!)
Thanks to Patricia for this talk, and for the members of the DPS Professional Climate and Culture sub-committee for all of your efforts towards making the meeting a comfortable space for all.
A new post on the Women in Astronomy Blog by Christina Richey highlights the new AAS DPS Committee and describes the upcoming Plenary talk at the DPS meeting in Pasadena by Patricia Knezek titled “Addressing Unconscious Bias” (talk is Wednesday, October 19th, 2016: 2:00-2:20 PM, Ballroom D). Read more about it at:
I was present for Dr. Dyar’s G. K. Gilbert Award citation and award acceptance speech at the 2016 GSA Planetary Geology Division conference banquet. I was moved by her speech and I know others were as well. She was kind enough to share her thoughts and career path trials and triumphs with us here.
Here is the award citation by Dr. Molly Mccanta :
FACULTY OPENING IN PLANETARY SCIENCE, The Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology invites qualified candidates to apply for a tenure track position at the assistant professor level beginning July 2017 or thereafter. Applicants with research interests in Planetary Science are encouraged to apply. We seek an outstanding scientist with interest in and potential for innovation and leadership in teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels and research. The search is in the broad area of Planetary Science encompassing our Solar System as well as exoplanets, including theory, observation, and instrumentation. However, we are especially interested in individuals whose research complements existing MIT expertise. Applicants must hold a Ph.D. in Planetary Science or related field by the start of employment and must demonstrate ability to excel in teaching. A complete application must include curriculum vitae, two-page description of research and teaching plans and three letters of recommendations.
The following blog post was written by Dr. Julie Rathbun, Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and Professor of Physics at the University of Redlands.
The photo above was taken during the July 2016 meeting of the Science Team for the Europa Multiple Flyby mission. All of the women at the meeting (most of whom are members of the science team) wanted to celebrate the accomplishments of women scientists by taking this photo. It was shot after Dr. Margaret Kivelson was honored by the Project with the Monolith award. During her speech, Margie discussed the challenges she’d faced over her more than 50 years as a scientist, many of those due to being one of a very small number of women scientists. For more about her talk, see https://storify.com/LokiVolcano/margaret-kivelson-at-europa-psg.
How far have we come and how far do we still need to go to welcome women into planetary science, and, particularly, spacecraft missions? For the 2015 DPS meeting, together with a great group of volunteers, I found lists of names of the team members for 22 NASA planetary science missions over a period of 41 years. We considered only original team scientists (not engineers, members of project management, nor students or postdocs) from US institutions (since investigators from foreign institutions are generally not funded by NASA). We determined the year each team was selected and the gender presentation of each team member. For more recent missions, generally someone on our team knew the investigator personally, so it was straightforward to determine gender. In other cases, we relied on images of the scientist from web searches and, in a few cases, just the name of the scientist. The most difficult part of the process was often determining the original team membership, without including postdocs, participating scientists, and other additional scientists. Read more…
DPS/EPSC Women in Planetary Science Discussion Hour 2016
Join us on Tuesday, Oct. 18th from 12:00-1:30 pm for the annual DPS/EPSC Women in Planetary Science event in room C106 of the Pasadena Convention Center (conference venue). The discussion this year will focus on “Being an Ally” and related planetary science demographic information. All are welcome!
Thanks to the generosity of the DPS committee, we will be able to provide boxed lunches this year!
Pre-registration at http://bit.ly/DPS_WIPS_2016 is required due to space limitations. Lunch orders must be placed by Sept. 15th.
Contact Kelsi.Singer at gmail.com with questions.