At the RAS we are painfully aware that the situation for Black astronomers and geophysicists is difficult and challenging. There are very few Black British people working and studying in our sciences, as noted in our most recent demographic survey. The Society wants to understand better why this is the case, and to take steps to ensure that no future astronomers and geophysicists feel unwelcome.
We have been discussing the issues faced by minority groups for many years, and both our Committee on Diversity in Astronomy and Geophysics (CDAG) and our Diversity Officer, Dr Sheila Kanani, are here to address and tackle these concerns. The Society is always keen to hear how we can work with other organisations to promote positive change.
We signed the Science Council Declaration on Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion in 2014. We have been proactive in promoting diversity in our science, and have partnered with and supported charities such as Generating Genius and Black British in STEM. These initiatives are though just the start - we recognise that there is a great deal more to be done.
As part of #ShutDownSTEM today, the Society is taking some time to focus on what else we can do to support the existing community of Black astronomers and geophysicists, as well as inspiring a new generation. We will be talking, reading, learning and most importantly - listening.
If you are a Black astronomer or geophysicist, at any stage of your career or studies, please get in touch. The RAS has some ideas already, but we want ask what is most important to you. We will also be working on useful resources to support Black scientists, for example, specific training, and promoting more outreach opportunities with minority communities.
The Society would also like to amplify the voices of Black astronomers, space scientists, and geophysicists, in academia and industry, and to ensure that there are more applicants from diverse backgrounds for our prizes and grants.
So although the Society is taking part in #ShutDownSTEM, we want to be clear that rather than shutting down, we are taking some time to work out how we can open up our sciences, and can make everyone feel welcome in astronomy and geophysics.
Dr Sheila Kanani
Education, Outreach and Diversity Officer
Royal Astronomical Society