Our planet is facing the largest environmental crisis in human history (Kellogg & Schware 2019). The Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) Department studies the effects of climate change, air pollution, and environmental degradation, which leaves no person unaffected and disproportionately and negatively impacts marginalized communities, including many who identify as Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and People of Color. The Geosciences has historically had a significant underrepresentation of minority groups and women, which largely persists to this day. There has been no increase in the numbers of underrepresented minorities gaining Ph.D.s in the last 40 years in the Geosciences relative to demographic shifts in the population (Bernard & Cooperdock, 2018; Fig 1). These numbers are also reflected in our Department, both in Ph.D.s earned and in faculty demographics. While there have been marked improvements in the gender balance of graduating PhDs nationally, more work is needed. Gains in the gender balance of Ph.D.s awarded nationally (Bernard & Cooperdock, 2018; Fig 2) are not yet reflected in our faculty. These figures indicate a bottleneck in the academic pipeline that is pervasive even at the undergraduate level (Wilson 2014). There is lost potential and talent at every academic level in our field. As members of the Geoscience community, we accept that we have historically failed in representing both domestic and international racial, ethnic, gender, and and LGBTQ+ diversity within our faculty and students.
While acknowledging the problem is an important step, we take this opportunity to commit to an anti-racist and anti-discriminatory position, and to continually move toward. The AOS Department pledges to (1) strive to actively create a diverse academic community; one which reflects the broader community and encourages the highest quality of research, (2) foster an environment that recognizes and supports diversity and gives each person a space for safe expression, and (3) identify and implement mechanisms that actively combat racism, exclusion, and discrimination and hold members accountable for their actions.
We rely on diverse talents and perspectives to study past, present, and future environmental changes and challenges, and to provide advice for decision makers. The quality of science and solutions can only improve if recruitment of talent includes the entire breadth of our society. We value the important progress made in the Geosciences from members from historically marginalized communities, and recognize the substantial institutional obstacles that these students, postdocs, and faculty face. We are committed to making our Department a safe and inclusive space where diversity is welcomed, fostered, and celebrated. We will not accept failure in achieving our goals and expect that future statistics will demonstrate our success.
Figure 1. Ph.D.s earned by US citizens and permanent residents between 1973 and 2016. Bernard and Cooperdock (2018) point out that when looking at “underrepresented minorities (that is, excluding White non-Hispanics and Asian non-Hispanics), and comparing with the increasing share of these groups in the US population (measured by decadal census and 2016 estimate), it becomes clear that gains in Hispanic or Latino PhDs largely reflect an increase in the relevant population in the US, and that there are no gains in PhDs earned among the other underrepresented groups”. In conclusion, our fields have not increased underrepresented minority representation over the past 40 years. Figure reproduced from Bernard & Cooperdock, 2018.
Figure 2. Gender balance in the Geosciences in Ph.D.s earned in the US between 1973 and 2016. Bernard and Cooperdock, 2018.
Figure 3. Percentage of Geoscience Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded to Underrepresented Minorities in the US between 2003 and 2012. Wilson 2014.
This statement was approved by the AOS Faculty on July 1st 2020, after consultation with our student body.
Bernard, R. E., & Cooperdock, E. H. (2018). No progress on diversity in 40 years. Nature Geoscience, 11(5), 292-295.
Kellogg, W.W. & Schware, R. (2019). Climate change and society: consequences of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Routledge.
Wilson, C. E. (2014). The challenges of comparing data on minorities in the geosciences. Geoscience Currents, 83.
Below we provide a link to resources and student organizations that may provide support, both within and outside our department, and all of which we collaborate with in order to continue the work in making our department more inclusive. We encourage prospective students to contact us with inquiries on our academic programs and financial and academic support available at the undergraduate and graduate level (contact: Denise Lopez, AOS Student Affairs Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org).