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What does the planetary science workforce look like? What we know and what we still need to learn

Presentation #320.01 in the session Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility in Planetary Science (Oral Presentation)

Published onOct 23, 2023
What does the planetary science workforce look like? What we know and what we still need to learn

The 2022 Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey, “Origins, Worlds, and Life: A Decadal Strategy for Planetary Science and Astrobiology 2023-2032” (OWL), included, for the first time, a chapter on the State of the Profession that included several critical findings and recommendations. In addition, a large depository of data analysis has been gathered in support of the chapter at This depository includes more than 100 slides that “present data on demographics on the planetary science research community that were gathered to support the State of the Profession Writing Group of the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032”. The data imply several important take home messages, many of which have already been highlighted in Rivera-Valentín et al. (2020) and Rathbun et al. (2020). First, Black/African-American scientists are significantly underrepresented in the planetary science workforce, including among student researchers in planetary science, geoscience, and physics. Over the past decades, there has been no improvement in representation. Second, while several analyses look at gender, they only look at binary gender and only a fraction of them examine race. Additional diversity axes, and the role that intersectional identities play, should be considered. Third, not only is the planetary science field less diverse than other STEM fields, it is also inequitable. Even after members of underrepresented groups enter the field, barriers to success and full participation as an equal member exist.

While there is much data on planetary scientists, there is little to no data about the astrobiology workforce. Furthermore, the data that exist are generally from surveys, which is not the only tool that can be used to understand a community and workforce. Furthermore, some current surveys are discriminatory. For example, those that only allow binary gender as options. Moreover, surveys generally bin broad identities together, such as Asian-American, which represents a broad population. Social scientists use other techniques, such as ethnography, which can give a better understanding of small groups than survey data can.

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