ISEE submitted an APC / state-of-the-profession position paper to the U.S. Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey (Astro 2020), in collaboration with interested contributors from the ISEE and telescope communities.  

Preparing an Inclusive Astronomy Community through Effective Professional Development

Full paper submitted to Astro 2020

Paper summary:  Alongside enormous potential for forging new discoveries and building understanding of our physical universe, the U.S. astronomy community faces steep challenges.  Community members must acquire new knowledge and abilities in emerging disciplines that will drive cutting-edge research.  They must collaborate on a global scale and across disciplines.  Collectively our community must overcome and reverse longstanding imbalances in who can participate and succeed in astrophysics and related fields.  These challenges will be addressed through individual actions and professional practices, as well as through systematic changes to policies and allocated resources.  In this paper we address the first of these channels: training individuals within the astronomy community to innovate, collaborate, lead, mentor, and teach in ways that are both highly effective and poised to support community members who are underrepresented or otherwise marginalized.  While an individual may encounter a range of professional development opportunities, the most effective ones share specific characteristics that enable lasting implementation of new skills or knowledge.

In this position paper we recommend two broad strategies for the astronomy community:

  • Support professional development initiatives informed by research and whose efficacy can be demonstrated
  • Support initiatives that address equity and inclusion as an essential aspect of professional skills

To enact these strategies, institutions, departments, and projects should: 

  • align professional development opportunities with evaluation and promotion criteria, and invest in training that is demonstrably effective
  • leverage professional development toward their overall goals for inclusion

Funding agencies should:

  • evaluate proposed professional development activities based on how the activities are informed by professional development research, and how their outcomes will be demonstrated
  • fund professional development activities that specifically address equity and inclusion in professional practices

Professional agencies should disseminate “best practices” in a range of professional activities, along with research in support.


Initial ideas for this paper were presented at the June 2018 American Astronomical Society meeting in Denver.