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Demographic study of the planetary science workforce

Presentation #502.07 in the session “Plenary Panel: Workforce Townhall”.

Published onOct 26, 2020
Demographic study of the planetary science workforce

The planetary science workforce surveys have shown that the demographics of the field are not representative of the national population. The 2020 DPS workforce survey indicates that women are underrepresented by 21.8% ± 8.3%, Latinx by 71.5% ± 5.4%, and Black researchers by 89.8% ± 3.7% with respect to the National Civilian Labor Force (NCLF). American Indians / Alaskan Natives are currently represented at 1.00 ± 0.42 times their representation in the NCLF (i.e., may be underrepresented by up to 42%); thus, analysis is inconclusive on whether this population is underrepresented. Asian Americans / Pacific Islanders in planetary science are represented at 2.15 ± 0.24 times their representation in the NCLF. White researchers are represented at 1.02 ± 0.02 times their representation in the NCLF. Over the last nine years, the field has made some improvements, particularly in regard to the representation of women and Latinx, which have increased by 12.7% ± 4.3% and 3.8% ± 1.0% respectively; however, no change has occurred for Black researchers over the last nine years (0.3% ± 0.6%).

The DPS workforce surveys indicate that planetary scientists generally follow either the physics or geosciences educational tracks. Since 2000, geosciences have seen an increase in the representation of women by 0.88% ± 0.18% per year, while representation in physics has only grown by 0.33% ± 0.15% per year. In the same time, Latinx representation in geology and physics has increased by 0.21% ± 0.05% and 0.13% ± 0.06% per year. However, no change has occurred for Black doctoral graduates in either field over the last 18 years (0.03% ± 0.04%). This is in stark contrast to the overall increase of Black doctoral graduates in Science and Engineering (0.09% ± 0.02% per year).

Further underrepresentation occurs for women of color. Since 2000, Latinx women have accounted for 48.7% ± 4.3% and 19.6% ± 2.9% of the doctoral degrees earned by Latinx in geology and physics respectively, and thus are underrepresented in physics relative to men. Black women are underrepresented in both fields as they account for 23.3% ± 4.6% and 34.3% ± 6.9% of the doctoral degrees earned by Black students in geology and physics, respectively.

In this report, we present a summary of the demographics from the DPS workforce surveys, particularly as they relate to race and ethnicity, along with information from national sources in order to identify trends in underrepresentation in planetary science and related fields. The presented work can be used to inform diversity and inclusion initiatives. See also in this conference Rathbun et al. and Diniega et al. for recommendations.


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