AAS Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomy Graduate Education

The AAS Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomy Graduate Education has completed its final report, and the AAS Board of Trustees has voted to endorse it. The Task Force presented its findings at a plenary held at the AAS 233rd meeting in Seattle.

The main report begins with an Executive Summary which highlights the recommendations of the Task Force both to departments and to the AAS (see below). The remainder of the main report has sections on each of the categories of recommendations with details about each recommendation, including both practical steps a department can take to implement the recommendation, as well as providing the research basis for each recommendation. The Appendices (pages 32-74) provide substantially more details and resources that departments can dive into to help them implement the recommendations, as well as additional useful information.

The Task Force believes this structure will allow departments to quickly grasp the main points of the report while also providing enough specific detail and resources to make this a useful handbook for change. There are additional features that make the report very user-friendly:

  • The Table of Contents has live hyperlinks to move to any section of the report. There is a “Back to Table of Contents” link on the bottom of every page, making it easy to return to the top to explore a new section
  • The report also included many live hyperlinks to outside resources that departments (and the AAS) might find useful

Read the Report › 

Executive Summary

At the January 2017 AAS meeting in Texas, the AAS Council (now the AAS Board of Trustees) approved the creation of a Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomy Graduate Education. This document details the charge, goals, membership, structure, and activities of the task force.

The Task Force held its first meeting in November 2017. At that first meeting, the Task Force members, to facilitate the work of the Task Force, approved the creation of three working groups. Each working group was co-chaired by two Task Force members who recruited additional members from the community. These working groups took primary responsibility for soliciting input from the community around their topic and developing the recommendations contained in this report. In addition, presentations were made to the four AAS Diversity committees (CSWA, CSMA, SGMA, and WGAD) by the Task Force liaisons from each committee to directly solicit their input and feedback. The committees were also given a chance to review this report in draft form to comment. All recommendations were discussed and approved by the entire Task Force. See Appendix II for details of the Task Force creation and timeline of activities.

The Task Force’s list of detailed recommendations by category is summarized below. Details of each recommendation, and the justification behind it, including references from social science research supporting the recommendation, are found in the main report. Evidence-based resources and tools that will help in the implementation of the recommendations are included in the Appendices.

A. Admissions: Goals and Recommendations to Departments


  • The demographics of students admitted to PhD programs in astronomy should reflect those of the availability pool at the undergraduate level
  • Admissions criteria and processes should be designed to broaden the definitions of excellence and merit to create greater diversity in admitted cohorts
  • Applying to a graduate program should be a transparent, informed process

Recommendations to Departments

  • Partner with and recruit from undergraduate programs that produce large numbers of graduates from underrepresented groups (e.g., MSIs, HSIs, and Tribal Colleges)
  • Implement evidence-based, systematic, holistic approaches to graduate admissions, based on the existing literature as well as on self-study when possible
  • Coordinate with graduate schools and other campus offices to ensure that program level policies and practices aimed at diversity and inclusion are supported and amplified at the institutional level

B. Retention: Goals and Recommendations to Departments


  • End harassment and bullying in and around astronomical workplaces
  • Provide an accessible environment, including but not limited to full ADA-compliance
  • Provide a healthy, welcoming, family-friendly environment
  • Provide effective mentoring through evidence-based practices and expanded networking opportunities
  • Adopt teaching and learning practices that support all students, especially those with marginalized identities

Recommendations to Departments

  • Engage in genuine, open, and sometimes difficult conversations
  • Conduct assessments to identify areas of need or opportunities
  • Create short- and long-term actionable department plans with measurable outcomes that address the five goals
  • Incentivize and support professional development in the support of the five goals
  • Take actions based on the departmental plan and monitor progress toward outcomes, employing inclusive processes
  • Encourage ongoing improvements toward inclusiveness by iterating through the process represented in steps 1-5

C. Data Collection and Metrics for Success: Goals and Recommendations to Departments


  • Measure progress toward the recommendations regarding Admissions and Retention
  • Measure trends in field-wide demographic and climate data to assess which practices are effective and for whom
  • Help departments advance their goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion using data and metrics for success

Recommendations to Departments

  • Participate in the recommended AAS/AIP6national demographic and climate survey, and encourage all relevant members (e.g., graduate students, postdocs, researchers, faculty) to participate
  • Regularly collect and analyze data relevant to graduate education, including the demographics of applicant pools, admitted and enrolled students, and disaggregated progress and success rates
  • Assess the success of steps taken to improve the educational experience of graduate students using an evidence-based rubric
  • Report results on progress in implementing the recommendations of this Task Force on the platform provided by the AAS, and on departmental websites

D. Goals and Recommendations to the AAS


  • Measure the status and progress of diversity and inclusion in programs producing graduate degrees in astronomy
  • Provide a platform that incentivizes, recognizes, and disseminates steps that these programs take to increase diversity and inclusion in astronomy
  • Actively participate in the effort to produce, test, and disseminate new promising practices that increase diversity and inclusion in astronomy

Recommendations to AAS

  • Partner with the AIP Statistical Research Center to collect demographic and climate data
  • Recruit departments to adopt the recommendations of this Task Force
  • Create a platform for encouraging departments to adopt best practices and to track their adoption over time
  • Invest in the continued development, sharing, and curation of research- and best-practice-based toolkits that enable graduate programs to implement evidence-based recruitment, admissions, and mentoring practices
  • Encourage participation by the AAS equity committees and working groups in the AAAS SEA Change initiative

The AAS thanks to all for their work:

Task Force Members:

  • Alex Rudolph, Cal Poly Pomona, co-Chair
  • Gibor Basri, UC Berkeley, co-Chair
  • Marcel Agüeros, Columbia Univ. (AAS Board liaison)
  • Ed Bertschinger, MIT
  • Kim Coble, San Francisco State Univ. (CSMA representative)
  • Megan Donahue, Michigan State Univ., ex-officio (President, AAS)
  • Jackie Monkiewicz, ASU (WGAD representative)
  • Angela Speck, Univ. of Missouri (CSWA representative)
  • Keivan Stassun, Vanderbilt Univ. (SGMA representative)

Advisors to the Task Force:

  • Rachel Ivie, AIP
  • Christine Pfund, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Julie Posselt, Univ. of Southern California (Senior advisor)

AAS Staff Liaison to the Task Force:

  • Michelle Farmer

Admissions Working Group:

  • Marcel Agüeros, Columbia Univ., co-Chair
  • Keivan Stassun, Vanderbilt Univ., co-Chair
  • Peter Frinchaboy, Texas Christian Univ.
  • Jenny Greene, Princeton Univ.
  • Emily Levesque, Univ. of Washington
  • Julie Posselt, Univ. of Southern California, Advisor
  • Seth Redfield, Wesleyan Univ.
  • Alex Rudolph, Cal Poly Pomona

Retention Working Group:

  • Kim Coble, San Francisco State Univ., co-Chair
  • Angela Speck, Univ. of Missouri, co-Chair
  • Maryangelly Diaz-Rodriguez, Florida State Univ.
  • David Helfand, Columbia Univ.
  • Eric Hooper, Univ. of Wisconsin
  • Jackie Monkiewicz, ASU
  • Christine Pfund, Univ. of Wisconsin, Advisor
  • Alex Rudolph, Cal Poly Pomona

Data Collection and Metrics for Success Working Group:

  • Ed Bertschinger, MIT, co-Chair
  • Jackie Monkiewicz, ASU, co-Chair
  • Richard Anantua, UC Berkeley
  • Gibor Basri, UC Berkeley
  • Megan Donahue, Michigan State Univ.
  • Jarita Holbrook, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
  • Rachel Ivie, AIP, Advisor
  • Douglas Richstone, Univ. of Michigan
  • Meg Urry, Yale Univ.

Added 11 April 2019: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have joined with more than 40 colleges, universities, and research institutions to launch an Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education.

Read the Press Release 

Action Collaborative Website