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Final Report of the 2018 AAS Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomy Graduate Education

The final report of the 2018 AAS Task Force in Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomy Graduate Education.

Published onJan 17, 2020
Final Report of the 2018 AAS Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomy Graduate Education

The full report may be downloaded as the following PDF file (74 pages):

The report’s Executive Summary is reproduced below.

Executive Summary

At the January 2017 AAS (American Astronomical Society) meeting in Texas, the AAS Council approved the creation of a Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in Graduate Astronomy Education. The Task Force consisted of 8 members of the community chosen to represent a wide range of stakeholders and interests. The membership included two co-chairs, one from a Minority Serving Institution (MSI) and one from a research university, liaisons to each of the four AAS diversity committees (CSWA, CSMA, SGMA, and WGAD1), and liaisons to the AAS Board of Trustees. In addition, the Task Force had three advisors, social scientists with expertise in the three main areas of focus of the Task Force: Admissions, Retention, and Data Collection and Metrics for Success. These advisors fully participated in all activities of the Task Force, providing input on the research and practice in support of each recommendation of the Task Force. See Appendix I for short bios of the advisors.

The charge to the Task Force was that the final report to the AAS Board of Trustees should include:

  1. the consideration of practices in recruiting, admissions, and retention of students into programs that offer astronomy-related Master’s degrees and PhDs, with the goal of identifying those practices that promote diversity and inclusion in graduate programs with regard to race and ethnicity, gender, LGBTIQA* status2, disability status, neurodiversity, socioeconomic status, and possibly other areas;

  2. the building of consensus on evidence-based best practices for recruitment, admissions, mentoring, retention, and (to the extent feasible) curriculum and outcome optimization of a diverse student population in astronomy graduate programs that closely matches the diversity of the US;

  3. the development of a statement of best practices for potential adoption by the AAS;

  4. the development of guidelines to help astronomy graduate programs who wish to implement these best practices do so; and

  5. the development of recommendations for ongoing data collection from graduate programs in astronomy, in order to assess progress in increasing diversity in graduate programs and also in the astronomical field in general.

The Task Force held its first meeting in November 2017. At that first meeting, the Task Force members, to facilitate the work of the Task Force, approved the creation of three working groups, as follows:

  1. Working Group on Admissions (including Recruiting)

  2. Working Group on Retention (including Mentoring)

  3. Working Group on Data Collection and Metrics for Success

Each working group was co-chaired by two Task Force members who recruited additional members from the community. These working groups took primary responsibility for soliciting input from the community around their topic and developing the recommendations contained in this report. In addition, presentations were made to the four AAS Diversity committees (CSWA, CSMA, SGMA, and WGAD) by the Task Force liaisons from each committee to directly solicit their input and feedback. The committees were also given a chance to review this report in draft form to comment. All recommendations were discussed and approved by the entire Task Force. See Appendix II for details of the Task Force creation and timeline of activities.

The Task Force’s list of detailed recommendations by category is summarized below. Details of each recommendation, and the justification behind it, including references from social science research supporting the recommendation, are found in the main report. Evidence-based resources and tools that will help in the implementation of the recommendations are included in the Appendices.

A. Admissions: Goals and Recommendations to Departments


A. The demographics of students admitted to PhD programs in astronomy should reflect those of the availability pool at the undergraduate level

B. Admissions criteria and processes should be designed to broaden the definitions of excellence and merit to create greater diversity in admitted cohorts

C. Applying to a graduate program should be a transparent, informed process

Recommendations to Departments

  1. Partner with and recruit from undergraduate programs that produce large numbers of graduates from underrepresented groups (e.g., MSIs, HSIs3, and Tribal Colleges)

  2. Implement evidence-based, systematic, holistic approaches to graduate admissions, based on the existing literature as well as on self-study when possible

  3. Coordinate with graduate schools and other campus offices to ensure that program level policies and practices aimed at diversity and inclusion are supported and amplified at the institutional level

B. Retention: Goals and Recommendations to Departments


A. End harassment and bullying in and around astronomical workplaces

B. Provide an accessible environment, including but not limited to full ADA-compliance4

C. Provide a healthy, welcoming, family-friendly environment

D. Provide effective mentoring through evidence-based practices and expanded networking opportunities

E. Adopt teaching and learning practices that support all students, especially those with marginalized identities

Recommendations to Departments

  1. Engage in genuine, open, and sometimes difficult conversations

  2. Conduct assessments to identify areas of need or opportunities

  3. Create short- and long-term actionable department plans with measurable outcomes that address the five goals

  4. Incentivize and support professional development in the support of the five goals

  5. Take actions based on the departmental plan and monitor progress toward outcomes, employing inclusive processes

  6. Encourage ongoing improvements toward inclusiveness by iterating through the process represented in steps 1–5

C. Data Collection and Metrics for Success: Goals and Recommendations to Departments


A. Measure progress toward the recommendations regarding Admissions and Retention

B. Measure trends in field-wide demographic and climate data to assess which practices are effective and for whom

C. Help departments advance their goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion using data and metrics for success

Recommendations to Departments

  1. Participate in the recommended AAS/AIP5 national demographic and climate survey, and encourage all relevant members (e.g., graduate students, postdocs, researchers, faculty) to participate

  2. Regularly collect and analyze data relevant to graduate education, including the demographics of applicant pools, admitted and enrolled students, and disaggregated progress and success rates

  3. Assess the success of steps taken to improve the educational experience of graduate students using an evidence-based rubric

  4. Report results on progress in implementing the recommendations of this Task Force on the platform provided by the AAS, and on departmental websites

D. Goals and Recommendations to the AAS


A. Measure the status and progress of diversity and inclusion in programs producing graduate degrees in astronomy

B. Provide a platform that incentivizes, recognizes, and disseminates steps that these programs take to increase diversity and inclusion in astronomy

C. Actively participate in the effort to produce, test, and disseminate new promising practices that increase diversity and inclusion in astronomy

Recommendations to AAS

  1. Partner with the AIP Statistical Research Center to collect demographic and climate data

  2. Recruit departments to adopt the recommendations of this Task Force

  3. Create a platform for encouraging departments to adopt best practices and to track their adoption over time

  4. Invest in the continued development, sharing, and curation of research- and best-practice-based toolkits that enable graduate programs to implement evidence-based recruitment, admissions, and mentoring practices

  5. Encourage participation by the AAS equity committees and working groups in the AAAS6 SEA Change7 initiative

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