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Diversity and inclusion in Australian astronomy

Abstract

Australian astronomy is undergoing a great change in culture, diversity and inclusion through major nationwide and university-scale initiatives. These initiatives include prestigious women-only faculty hires, broad diversity targets, concrete activities to overcome implicit bias, and innovative initiatives to change the academic culture and environment. Many of these activities were precipitated by the Pleiades Awards programme run by the Astronomical Society of Australia and by initiatives developed within the Australia-wide Centres of Excellence in astrophysics. I provide an overview of the nationwide programmes that are making an important impact on diversity, culture and climate, and describe the most promising and innovative initiatives in Australian universities and institutions. The striking changes seen in Australian astronomy can be triggered in other countries by similar awards programmes initiated by national astronomical societies or Academies of Science.

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Fig. 1: Gender fractions at university levels in science in Australia.
Fig. 2: Pleiades Awards by year.
Fig. 3: Percentage of Australian astronomer departments with diversity initiatives.
Fig. 4: Percentage of female award and nominations for ASA awards.

Data availability

Figure 1 was created with publicly available data from the Higher Education Staff Database: https://www.education.gov.au/staff-data. Figures 2 and 4 were created with publicly available data from the ASA: http://asa.astronomy.org.au/awards.html and https://mailman.sydney.edu.au/pipermail/asa/Week-of-Mon-20190114/005234.html. Information on diversity initiatives at astronomer departments and organizations in Australia (including Fig. 3) was provided solely for the purpose of this publication by the heads of department, directors and diversity committee chairs from the ARC ASTRO 3D and OzGrav, ANU, CASS, Curtin University, Macquarie University, Monash University, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Adelaide, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, University of Southern Queensland, University of Sydney, University of Tasmania, University of Western Australia and Western Sydney University. The survey data and derived statistics can be provided by the author upon reasonable request, if agreement from the individual institution heads of department, directors and diversity chairs is obtained.

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Acknowledgements

L.J.K. is supported by the Australian Research Council ASTRO 3D through project no. CE170100013. I thank the ASA president, astronomer department and organization chairs and directors, and their diversity committee chairs for information on programmes operating at each institution and organization.

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Correspondence to Lisa J. Kewley.

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Peer review information Nature Astronomy thanks Alessandra Aloisi and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Kewley, L.J. Diversity and inclusion in Australian astronomy. Nat Astron 3, 1067–1074 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-019-0954-1

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