- NASA Watch
- November 7, 2022
NASA Speaks About Harassment in Space Science and Astronomy
NASA Administrator Communicates Harassment Policies to Grantees (link fixed)
“The following is a letter from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to grantee institutions running NASA-funded programs regarding harassment policies: As a leader in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), NASA endeavors to make our collaborations with our grant recipient institutions as productive and successful as possible in all facets of our shared objectives. This means that we seek not only the most innovative and cutting-edge scientific and technological research from our grant recipients, we also expect strong efforts to create and sustain welcoming and inclusive educational environments. We view such efforts not as “something nice to do” if the time can be spared, or something that human resources or the diversity and equity offices are responsible for, but rather as an integral and indeed necessary aspect of all educational program environments. Let me be perfectly clear: NASA does not tolerate sexual harassment, and nor should any organization seriously committed to workplace equality, diversity and inclusion. Science is for everyone and any behavior that demeans or discourages people from fully participating is unacceptable.”
Dava Newman: NASA Communicates Harassment Policies to Grantees
Keith’s 15 Jan 5:00 pm note: Kudos to Charlie Bolden for making a very public and unequivocal stance on this issue. No one will ever doubt NASA’s stance on this issue. In fact Bolden may have just set a new, higher standard in this regard.
Keith’s 15 Jan 1:35 pm note: The issue of sexual harassment in space science and astronomy has taken on a life of its own in traditional and social media. The hashtag #astroSH for these discussions has been trending nationally on Twitter. This has attracted a number of women who have opened up about experiences they had to endure while trying to pursue a career – thus inspiring others to comment as well.
As with anything that gets popular in social media there are now fake Twitter accounts popping up behind which people hide and snipe on #astroSH conversations. Other fake accounts use the hashtag as part of so-called spambot marketing schemes. Yet the core focus of #astroSH continues to grow. And of course #astroSH is a subset of much larger issue of harassment in research and the workplace.
NASA funds a substantial portion of the astronomy and space science research that forms the core of this community’s activity. While these specific harassment cases are indeed internal issues within specific non-NASA institutions, NASA does have an unequivocal moral stake in the way that these cases are handled – as well as pushing to make such behavior unwelcome in the first place. Yes, NASA like all other government agencies has a list of formal policies on this matter. However having these policies does not seem to have stifled this behavior. But NASA does have people at its helm – specifically NASA Administrator Bolden, Deputy Administrator Newman, and Chief Scientist Stofan, who could use their prominence to speak out on this issue. So far we’ve heard nothing but silence. One would hope that will change soon.
Keith’s 14 Jan note: I sent a note to NASA HQ yesterday suggesting that they read what is being posted on Twitter under the hashtag #astroSH. The postings concern the two astronomy harassment cases that broke earlier this week. Lots of pent-up raw emotion, anger, frustration are being expressed by many people who have been victims of sexual harassment in the astronomy/space science community – a topic that touches far too many people. Given NASA’s prominence in the funding of astronomy one would think that something public from NASA – even if not directly addressing these two specific events – would be very useful right about now. The prominence that the President gave to women in education and exploration the other night in his State of the Union speech simply underscores the value of something being issued by NASA right now.
NASA’s reaction: silence.
Keith’s 14 Jan 1:00 PM update: The following statement, written prior to this week’s harassment stories, is used by NASA for these sorts of matters, has been forwarded to me. NASA is (apparently) not responding directly to the issues raised by #astroSH commenters — so I doubt that this will appear anywhere at NASA.gov. “NASA does not tolerate sexual harassment, and nor should any organization seriously committed to workplace equality, diversity and inclusion. Science is for everyone and any behavior that demeans or discourages people from fully participating is unacceptable.”
Harassment in Space Science and Astronomy (Update)