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SSA Creates Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force

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Dear SSA Community:

As a Society, we seek to do all we can to make science accessible to all.

That goal has inspired a new task force to address diversity and inclusion within our community.

Chaired by Aaron Velasco, professor of geological sciences and computational sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force will identify specific and actionable recommendations for the SSA Board of Directors. In making these recommendations, the task force will seek to address diversity and inclusion across all SSA activities, including meetings, publications, policy statements, awards, website and public outreach, student mentoring, travel grants, ethics policies, governance and membership composition.

The complete charter for this Task force may be found below. 

I invite you to join this important effort by reaching out with your ideas, input or interest in serving as volunteers.  Please write info@seismosoc.org, and your comments will be forwarded to the Board of Directors and the Task Force.

Bill Walter
SSA President

The SSA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, Plan and Charge

Goal: Create substantive, positive change within the SSA organization and membership that addresses historic and current inequities within our Society and the broader science community.

Motivation: In the United States, a wide variety of studies show the geosciences community does not reflect the broader societal makeup (e.g. Howley, 2020; Dutt, 2020; Velasco and de Velasco, 2010).  Only about 10% of Ph.D. degrees are awarded to people of color, although they represent more than a third of the population. These numbers have changed little over the past 40 years (e.g. Dutt, 2020).  Recent events in the United States have again raised awareness of this discrepancy in many fields; similar divergences may be present throughout the world. This discrepancy represents a tremendous loss of talent and contributes to ongoing biases and racism. As the premier seismological professional society, SSA is committed, as stated in its ethics policy, to: “freedom and transparency in research and education, which should be conducted in a supportive, inclusive, and respectful environment, free from any discrimination, harassment or bullying.” SSA is convening this task force to identify specific and actionable recommendations the Society can take to start to address the significant issues surrounding the systematic under-representation in seismology and related geosciences by marginalized groups on both short- and long-term time horizons.

Proposed Composition: 7–9 members in total, consisting of a Chair from outside the SSA Board, 1–2 Board member representatives, 4–5 other non-SSA Board geoscientists representing a range of backgrounds and career experience levels, possibly 1–3 liaisons from other professional societies and geoscience organizations (e.g. SCEC, IRIS, AGU).

Proposed Task Force Membership Selection: The Chair of the Task Force will be proposed by the SSA President and approved by the SSA Board. The SSA Board may ask for 1–2 Board volunteer members to serve on the Task Force and propose liaisons to other organizations.  This proposed task force charter will be shared with the SSA community and volunteers sought.  The Chair of the Task Force may actively seek task force members as well. The final composition of the Task Force will be approved by the SSA Board with concurrence of the Chair.

Proposed timeline: The Task Force will be assembled and begin work by the end of July 2020 and will aim to complete work by the end of 2020. The expected output will be a brief report that addresses the charge and includes a list of recommended actions.

Proposed Charge:  This Task Force is charged with identifying specific and actionable recommendations for the SSA Board to address diversity and inclusion within the SSA community. In making these recommendations, the Task Force will address the full variety of activities SSA engages in, including meetings, publications, policy statements, awards, website and public outreach, student mentoring, travel grants, ethics policies, governance and membership composition. Furthermore, possible alignment with or learning from other organization’s efforts are encouraged. Some issues the Task Force may consider are:

  • What steps should SSA take to increase the diversity and inclusion of its membership?
  • How can SSA-sponsored meetings be made more welcoming to members of under-represented minorities?
  • What policies should SSA adopt and/or recommend to increase the diversity within the ranks of geoscientists?
  • What incentives can SSA establish that encourage diversity and inclusion in its membership and the geosciences?
  • Is there role for SSA to create ongoing training opportunities for its membership to address issues related to implicit bias?
  • What role should SSA play in the training of scientists to increase the diversity in the composition of geoscientists and better reflect the composition of society at large?

References:

Dutt, K. (2020). Race and racism in the geosciences, Nature Geosciences, 13, 2-3, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0519-z

Howley, K. D. R. (2020), Deep biases prevent diverse talent from advancing, Eos, 101, https://doi.org/10.1029/2020EO145065. Published on 03 June 2020.

Velasco, A. A., and E. J. de Velasco (2010). Striving to diversify the geosciences workforce, EOS trans. AGU, 91, 289-290. https://doi.org/10.1029/2010EO330001.

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