11 July 2016

Why Building Diversity in the Earth and Space Sciences Matters

Posted by Joan Buhrman

By Margaret Leinen, President, American Geophysical Union and Eric Davidson, President-elect, American Geophysical Union

As an organization, AGU’s mission is to “promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity.” Humanity is without boundaries. Humanity is inclusive. Humanity represents us all. We cannot live up to all that our mission promises if the Earth and space science community is not representative of humanity. Whether it’s race, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, cultural identity, socioeconomics, or any of the many of aspects of diversity, we must be able to understand and respect each other’s needs and strengths, eliminate bias and discrimination, and work together to build solutions that will benefit us all.

Unfortunately, in recent weeks, incidents in the U.S. and around the world have reminded us that what happens in the communities our members are a part of also influences the workplace and climate for them professionally. It creates an environment in which the type of inclusiveness we envision struggles to take hold. We recognize that barriers to diversity and inclusiveness in the science workplace are often manifestations of the state of our society, and that we must continue to fight such barriers by fostering a workplace culture of open communication, empathy and respect. Science has the capacity to illuminate a path toward a sustainable future for us all, and we must do everything we can to ensure that it can do so.

While some of the larger societal issues illustrated by recent events may be outside of AGU’s sphere of influence, we do have an important role to play regarding the workplace climate in institutions of science and for advancing diversity and inclusiveness at all stages of career development in science – issues that will play a crucial role in our achievement of AGU’s mission. We have several such on-going efforts, ranging from programs that improve students’ access to opportunities to present their research to bridging divides through increased opportunities for mentoring and networking, and strengthening the ethics policy that governs all AGU members. However, we are well aware that the status quo is not acceptable and that we still have much work to do. We must understand the issues we face as a society and in scientific institutions, communicate them, and proactively do our part to educate and make our own activities supportive for all. In an upcoming post we will further discuss AGU’s current efforts and solicit your feedback on areas where we could be doing more.

We join the world in mourning, condolence and concern, and we also renew our commitment to building diversity within our community and creating a safe, welcoming inclusive space in which Earth and space science – and Earth and space scientists – can thrive and realize their full potential.