We have organized around a series of anti-racist actions for the NHFP. These are the plans laid out by individual working groups in the fall of 2020, and we will continue to revise and update this page as our initiative evolves. See below for further details of our research and recommendations.
These organizational values were compiled by a volunteer working group of NHFP Fellows to outline the principles by which an equitable scientific community would operate. We will use these values to inform our actions and advocate for changes to racist policies, practices, and expectations within our own scientific communities.
Transparency and Access
Transparency is essential both to our organizational process and to the ways in which equitable scientific communities operate. Unspoken rules and expectations in science -- derived from a history of colonization, racism, and heteronormative patriarchy -- prevent everyone who wants to participate from doing so fully or at all. Many of the cultural aspects of the scientific practice are hierarchical, keeping power concentrated in a small, privileged minority who profess to have earned their status and the right to make decisions for many. We aim to act counter to this gatekeeping hierarchy. By providing access to our proposed actions and plans, we also intend to open our efforts to constructive feedback, especially from communities who are not well-represented in the action plan authors.
Scientists, including NHFP Fellows, are influenced by and are a product of the environment. We acknowledge the importance of community building, advocating, and mentoring to the health of the field -- these aspects of the practice of science should be valued and compensated just as highly as individual research contributions. For many BIPOC scientists, community engagement and activism (in both professional and local communities) are part of their personal value system and thus inseparable from their practice of science. One does not have the luxury of practicing science when they, their loved ones, or their community are unsafe, unwell, unsupported. An equitable scientific community embraces opportunities for generosity, values cooperation over competition, and recognizes one person’s success does not equal another’s failure.
We believe an equitable scientific community has a responsibility to:
Build a sustainable, supportive space for everyone who wants to pursue science.
Establish ways to offset the social and historical burdens that the BIPOC community has experienced, listen and believe that members of the BIPOC community are experts on their own experience, and value that experience.
Present honestly to graduate students what different career paths as a scientist are like, use fair and transparent selection processes for graduate school, and practice mentorship that focuses on the success of the graduate student, however that is defined to them.
Practice quality, creative, inclusive mentorship of undergraduate students, and recognize that undergraduate education is a valuable and important career stage that is still in many ways failing minoritized students.
Treat general public education as a requirement of the career, and engage with BIPOC communities outside of privileged spaces and networks.
The process of aligning our actions, expectations, and procedures with our values must be rigorously researched and evaluated, just like a traditional scientific product (paper, proposal). This process should focus on producing outcomes that directly address problems put forth by those who have been marginalized. This process and the outcomes should be informed by and situated in the broader context of a shared responsibility to create a just and equitable society.
Application and Awardee Statistics
We aim to collect, maintain, analyze, and distribute demographic data on the NHFP applicants and awardees in an anonymized format in order to improve the NHFP selection process. Such data are required to assess whether actions intended to increase diversity and inclusion in the NHFP are effective. Our short term goals include (1) collecting data on past fellows through a demographic survey; (2) advocating for the addition of a demographic survey to the official NHFP application; and (3) carrying out and distributing the results of an analysis of demographic data for NASA fellowships.
We recommend a set of actions to address the ways in which NHFP applications are evaluated, with the immediate goal of increasing the representation of URM and BIPOC applicants in selected Fellows while avoiding tokenism by ensuring that all applicants are evaluated in an equitable manner. First, we propose that STScI adopt evaluation criteria that explicitly select for a holistic set of scientific leadership qualities along three axes: scientific impact and potential, scientific community building, and communication skills. Second, we recommend revising the role of recommendation letters to mitigate the impact of unevenly distributed privilege. Finally, It is crucial that panel members represent a well-balanced mix of institutions, countries, races, and genders. To achieve the above goals, the selection process must be transparent and accountable. The above-listed efforts should leverage existing research on best practices and undergo vetting by an external expert.
Mentoring and Outreach
The sub-group on Outreach and Mentoring within the Hubble Fellows is aiming to provide resources to institutions/communities/students that are typically underserved, and specifically populations that have historically been underrepresented within the Hubble Fellows (Hubble, Sagan, Einstein) community. Our overarching mission is to make the process of joining the Hubble Fellow community more transparent and equitable. Our stated goals are threefold: 1) Build a public repository of successful applicant materials for PhD students and potential applicants to access; 2) Increase the outreach Fellows do by having a presence at conferences to offer application assistance and answer questions about the Hubble Fellow community, and giving presentations at neighboring institutions on applying for the Hubble Fellowship (and other prize fellowships); and 3) Begin a mentoring program that will connect current fellows with PhD students at institutions that do not have access to a current or previous Fellow.
Broader Impacts Fund
Efforts to educate and support young BIPOC entering (or interested in) STEM fields is a critical facet of the fight to dismantle the systemic anti-Black racism that plagues academia. Many NHFP fellows have already expressed a desire to use a portion of their research funds for outreach and mentorship efforts at their host institutions, despite this not being an explicit requirement of the fellowship. However, we have acknowledged that doing so might disadvantage fellows that are already financially burdened, and could render the fellowship less accessible for minoritized scientists. We propose the establishment of an NHFP “broader impacts” fund totaling $100,000 per year, an amount approximately equal to 10% of the existing NHFP research budget, that would explicitly support anti-racism efforts. NHFP fellows would write proposals detailing their outreach effort, which could include activities such as mentoring a summer student, establishing a program to visit and educate children at underserved schools, or financially supporting an already existing organization for minoritized STEM students at the fellow’s host institution. These applications would be judged by other NHFP recipients through a transparent and well vetted process; we anticipate a competitive process with a significant oversubscription rate that ensures excellent quality among funded proposals. While we are not suggesting that diversity and inclusion efforts be made a mandatory part of the NHFP, we do believe that fellows who dedicate themselves to these projects should be recognized as having done so by adding an optional section for reporting these activities in annual reports. By financially supporting fellows that go above and beyond to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community through the creation of effective outreach programs, the NHFP can give fellows the opportunity to grow as future leaders in astronomy, and will support NASA’s substantial efforts to improve diversity and inclusion within our field.
Action Plan Evaluation/Accountability
In alignment with our core value of transparency and access, we will make the contents of our action plan public on this website and be open to constructive feedback on the plan via an anonymous Google form. We will have a “quick action team” to respond to immediate to urgent concerns or events. We will set deadlines that ensure steady progress for meeting the action plan objectives, and write public progress reports at least yearly (if not more frequently). We will solicit feedback from an external review committee (ERC) of BIPOC scholars to review the plan. The ERC members will be financially compensated for their time, and we will, in every way possible, address and incorporate their feedback into our action plan. We will also conduct an annual internal review process among NHFP Fellows, as each year a new group of people will join and their input will be important and valued.