Unconscious Bias in Space Physics

I attended the Triennial Earth-Sun Summit meeting a couple of weeks ago, and there was a very good plenary session on unconscious bias in space physics. The presenters were the authors of the Clancy et al. paper in JGR Planets on bias in astronomy and planetary science. They summarized the findings of that paper, which quantified the extent of women and minorities reporting feeling unsafe or encountering a hostile work environment in these science fields. The numbers are not encouraging, with 80% of women experiencing some kind of sexist remark and two-thirds of women-of-color hearing racist remarks in the workplace. Furthermore, over a quarter of women have felt unsafe in their current position because of their gender or race. This is disturbing to me that the numbers are so large in 2018.

Unconcious Bias Plenary Handout title

            Fortunately, the conversation is not ending with the TESS plenary session. The organizers created a handout that was available to everyone at the session and online with the session description. I highly encourage everyone to read this tri-fold pamphlet. They encourage people to take the Harvard implicit bias test and read through the materials at the U of Arizona’s StepUp! by-stander intervention program. The sheet is filled with tips on how to identify and minimize implicit bias. Two of the biggest things that individuals can do immediately: amplify minority voices is group discussions (but don’t he-peat) and avoid making sexual remarks in the work environment.

As for JGR Space Physics, fighting implicit bias can be done in several ways. The first is to be cordial in your correspondence, especially to early career researchers like graduate students, and to apply the Platinum Rule in your interactions with others, thinking about how they want to be treated and considering the interaction from their perspective. Authors, please use gender-neutral pronouns in responses to anonymous reviewers. Reviewers, consider using one of the links in the handout for quantifying gender bias in writing. Finally, I hope that you all make a personal DEI pledge to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. People leave the field because of sexism in the workplace, and for our discipline, the workplace includes manuscript correspondence. I occasionally hear from advisors whose students have had a bad interaction with a reviewer.

Thanks to the TESS meeting and session organizers and for coordinating this panel discussion. Let’s continue to strive to do better to reduce implicit bias in space physics.

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2 thoughts on “Unconscious Bias in Space Physics

  1. Pingback: SPA SECTION NEWSLETTER, Volume XXV, Issue 37 - Space Physics and Aeronomy

  2. I just attended the GEM Workshop, and on Monday there was a plenary session on Microaggressions. It was excellent, with two speakers from NewMexicoWomen.org, who made it thoughtful, interactive, and useful. They also have an anti-harassment policy for attendees at the workshop. Space physics is, slowly but surely, addressing this issue.

    GEM Anti-Harassment Policy: http://www-ssc.igpp.ucla.edu/gem/pdf/GEM-AntiHarassment-Policy-Updated.pdf

    GEM Main page: http://www-ssc.igpp.ucla.edu/gemwiki/index.php/Main_Page

    Website of the microaggression plenary session speakers: https://newmexicowomen.org/

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