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Project Information

Project Information


Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in the Leadership of Competed Space Missions


Project Scope:

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will convene an ad hoc committee to address the topic "Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in the Leadership of Competed Space Missions." This committee will recommend actions to increase  diversity, inclusion, equity and accessibility in the leadership of space mission proposals submitted to the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) competed space mission programs. To accomplish this goal the committee will:

  • Map the current space mission proposal system. A system mapping will lay out requisite tasks, organizational processes, and human networks necessary to navigate the competitive process. The system mapping will also provide the SMD-supported science community with a useful reference for developing and submitting a space mission proposal.
  • Identify elements of the system that may present barriers or bottlenecks to potential proposers, yielding a less diverse pool of proposal leadership teams. As part of this step, the committee will identify points in the system at which NASA actions may have large, positive effects as well as acknowledging those points in the system at which the agency can do little to affect the diversity and inclusiveness of proposal leadership teams.
  • In the step above, identify humanistic elements of the system that may present impediments to applicants, limiting the diversity of the competitive pool. Such elements include, but are not limited to work/life balance considerations, professional advancement considerations (e.g., requirements for tenure), institutional support, the impacts of explicit and implicit biases and the impacts of discrimination, harassment, lack of inclusion and lack of accommodation for disabilities and any differences between the communities associated with different SMD divisions. In performing this comparison, the committee may engage with survey and demography experts.
  • Use existing NASA proposer data and other sources to analyze differences between the pool of current and past SMD proposers and the community of researchers in NASA-relevant fields, the larger US science community and the national population. In performing these comparisons, the committee may engage with appropriate, relevant experts and may conduct interviews with relevant organizations and federal agencies if needed. Where significant, identify differences from the overall pool that are specific to the communities of SMD’s four science divisions.
  • In developing recommendations, consider best practices from other agencies funding large, PI-led, multi-institutional projects to find common bottlenecks and to identify innovative methods for overcoming such barriers. Example programs that may be examined include NSF's Engineering Research Centers and Material Science Research Centers and NIH's "program project" grants.
  • Recommend practical and effective actions that NASA SMD and its partners can execute to help proposers overcome barriers to diversity and inclusion to ensure a diverse pool of proposal leadership teams.
  • Recommend ranges of activities and choices that individuals may make during their career to enhance the likelihood of individual success as a future leader of a competed space mission. These recommendations should balance activities against bias and barriers.
As part of its work, the committee will review and consider the findings of numerous past social science studies of participation barriers for women and minorities in professional endeavors such as science and engineering.  This part of the review will be integrated into the methods employed by the committee to collect information specific to the space community. These methods may include commissioned papers, community representation panels, or structured interviews.

Status: Current

PIN: DEPS-SSB-20-03

Project Duration (months): 18 month(s)

RSO: Graham, Sandra

Topic(s):

Behavioral and Social Sciences
Engineering and Technology
Space and Aeronautics
Policy for Science and Technology



Geographic Focus:

Committee Membership



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