Advancing IDEA in Planetary Science

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The Advancing IDEA in Planetary Science Conference was held virtually on April 25–29, 2022. The conference was motivated by the recent transformation of thought in the planetary and astrobiological sciences regarding the principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA).

Over the past decade, NASA and other planetary science stakeholders have committed to fostering IDEA principles throughout their agencies and funded programs. NASA has added language to standard Announcements of Opportunity, requested information and feedback from the community on agency practices, and added inclusion as a core value. Additionally, for the first time, the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey “Origins, Worlds, and Life: A Decadal Strategy for Planetary Science and Astrobiology 2023–2032” (OWL) requested white papers on the state of the profession from the community and included those findings and recommendations in the survey report. The Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics “Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 2020s”, which partially covered planetary science, also included IDEA-related recommendations to advance the field.

In the wake of these activities, the Advancing IDEA in Planetary Science Conference aimed to leverage this momentum to ensure that the planetary science and astrobiology community can make the necessary improvements toward advancing IDEA principles in the workforce over the next decade. The goal of the conference was to bring together the planetary, astrobiological, and social science communities to (1) lean into lessons learned to date, (2) identify opportunities for improvement by listening to those most impacted in the community, and (3) make recommendations for actionable and tangible measures for advancing IDEA principles within planetary science.

The conference received 70 abstract submissions and 427 registrants from across the planetary, astrobiological, and social sciences. Besides presentations based on contributed abstracts, the conference included talks from four keynote speakers. These presentations were intended to provide important context and set the tone for the discussion. Janet Vertesi (Department of Sociology, Princeton University) and co-speaker Stephanie Beth Jordan (Department of Communication Arts and Science, Michigan State University) presented  “Science in/as White Space: Ethnographic Observations from the Planetary, Earth, and Ocean Science Communities.” Adia Harvey Wingfield (Department of Sociology, Washington University in St. Louis) presented “Behind the Myth of Meritocracy: How STEM Fields Perpetuate Racial and Gender Disparities.” Orlando Figueroa (Orlando Leadership Enterprise, LLC) presented “Conclusions from the Planetary and Astrobiology Decadal Survey on the State of the Profession and Personal Observations.” Phoebe Cohen (Department of Geosciences, Williams College) presented “Finding and Strengthening My Voice as an IDEA Advocate in Earth and Planetary Science.” All presentations at the conference for which authors provided consent were recorded and are available in the online program.

The conference also included three workshops to practice and delve deeper into some topics. The “Designing and Sustaining Authentic Partnerships” workshop explored the definition and characteristics of authentic partnerships and shared insights and implementation strategies on designing and sustaining such partnerships. The “Listening Session” workshop facilitated discussions with people from underrepresented communities to better understand their needs and the challenges they face. One of the potential pitfalls of an IDEA conference held within the physical sciences is that the discussion can become data-centric. The goal of this session was to mitigate such a mentality by centralizing lived experiences, providing the space for perspectives directly from those most affected — in particular, leaders and advocates from different communities within the planetary sciences. The third workshop was a proposal-writing workshop entitled “Tips to Writing Proposals and Building Resiliency Within Your Career,” which focused on key points to communicating science through successful proposal writing and learning to understand one’s values and maintaining those through the process. This workshop helped to bridge some opportunity gaps faced by early career and new researchers in the planetary sciences in their understanding of the NASA proposal culture and system.

A key outcome of this conference was to identify community-led actionable and tangible recommendations to advance IDEA principles within the planetary science and astrobiology community. To do this, the conference organized discussions throughout the week into seven working groups: (1) recommendations for funding agencies, (2) recommendations for universities, (3) recommendations for research groups, (4) recommendations for professional organizations, (5) recommendations for employers and about employment, (6) recommendations about safety and accessibility, and (7) recommendations about public engagement and outreach. The working groups were led by co-facilitators who led asynchronous conversations via Slack and two focused discussion sessions during the conference. After the conference, the working groups organized their recommendations into a summary report. The final consensus report, which collates and summarizes the recommendations from the seven working groups, is available online (DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.6656887).

— Summary provided by Edgard Rivera-Valentín