Encouraging Diversity in Research

By Ellen Stofan and Gale Allen

At NASA, we tackle important issues such as how to send American astronauts to Mars in the 2030s (our Journey to Mars), understanding our planet’s changing climate, searching for potentially habitable planets around other stars, and trying to determine if life exists beyond Earth. We push the technologies that drive exploration and economic growth to new levels, work to make aircraft cleaner, greener, safer and quieter, and conduct research off-the-Earth, for the Earth on the International Space Station.

To do all this, we rely heavily on researchers all over this country who propose new and innovative research to NASA. We know that to best accomplish our goals and objectives, we need a research workforce that reflects the whole country, and leverages the power of America’s diversity—one of our nation’s greatest competitive assets.  To solve these tough problems, it’s “all hands on deck.” We need to ensure that we’re tapping into the talent of all of our population.

Starting this week, when researchers log into the NSPIRES NASA grant proposal site, they will be offered the opportunity to fill out a demographic information form. Providing this information will be totally voluntary and will not affect the outcome of the proposal.

Data obtained from this form – which will be kept separate from the proposal review process – will allow the agency to begin to assess the diversity of the research population and the pool of grant recipients. This voluntary data collection is similar to what’s been done by other federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation. It requires sufficient participation by the scientific community to obtain a meaningful dataset, so participation is highly encouraged.

At NASA, we always need to be funding the very best, competitive scientific research. We also need to ensure that everyone feels welcome, and that implicit bias does not play a role in diminishing our research population. With a diverse research community, we cast a wider net that invites more ideas, perspectives and solutions. This allows us to harness the talent of all of our population to tackle what lies ahead—in this solar system and beyond!

Ellen Stofan is NASA’s Chief Scientist and Gale Allen is NASA’s Deputy Chief Scientist