The Use of Quantitative Data in DEI+ Work in Astrophysics, Kate Macakanja, UG '23 and Savannah Pobre, UG '23
Astrophysics and Planetary Science have never been fields in which all people are equally welcomed. In recent years, and prompted by recent events, more and more scientists have been trying to increase the diversity, equity, and inclusion of their fields. Interestingly, this work is being done primarily by people in the field, rather than by external social scientists or diversity experts. We were interested in learning about this work: what projects are being undertaken, what is going well, and where Astrophysicists and Planetary Scientists feel they need help. In order to investigate this phenomenon, we conducted 31 interviews with Astrophysicists and Planetary Scientists who are involved in diversity work. We found that the vast majority of people doing this work got involved because of a personal experience with discrimination or mistreatment, either their own or a friend’s. As they tried to better contextualize and work toward ameliorating these negative experiences, they turned to quantitative data. In some ways, this was useful; however, many participants still mentioned per- sistent difficulties in making improvements. I argue that this is due to the absence of familiarity with sociological theories of diversity, a gap in understanding that many of the participants recognize. These theories are the means to developing a deeper understanding of the systems and processes behind discrimination, which is the only way that we can start to effect real change.