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AAAS Releases 2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report


Today, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) released a second annual report to share how we're nurturing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across the scientific enterprise. This report builds on our 2020 inaugural report, which included demographic representation of career-enabling functions of AAAS and the Science family of journals.

Both reports honor our commitment to hold up a mirror to ensure we are accountable for the DEI actions plans we released in 2020, which include strengthening advocacy and bolstering DEI across scientific disciplines and our own organization. At the time, AAAS CEO Sudip S. Parikh noted that 2020 was a year of “opportunity born from tragedy” and it is incumbent upon us to evaluate and be more intentional about the role we play as one of the largest enablers of careers, research, and discoveries across the scientific enterprise.

We expanded this year's report to share updates on the three tracks outlined in our action plans. Track one includes demographic reporting; track two refers to AAAS' external advocacy and programs designed to bolster DEI across the scientific enterprise; and track three includes our internal DEI actions.

AAAS believes that it's important to make demographic data publicly available because our actions help move the entire scientific enterprise forward.

Track one: demographic trends in representation

Because this is the second year where we collected this information, we were able to map out our progress between 2020 and 2021.

Overall and within most functions, there was a general improvement in data coverage between 2020 and 2021, allowing us to have greater insight into our demographics.

That said, there is still missing data across many functions. While we do not have a complete picture to reach definitive conclusions about apparent changes in demographic representation for gender identities, the data we were able to collect appears to show that in both 2020 and 2021, women and men are equally represented for AAAS/Science functions. Representation of women appears to have increased in 2021.

However, women appear to be underrepresented in Science family authors and reviewers in both 2020 and 2021.

We also do not have a complete picture to reach definitive conclusions about apparent changes in demographic representation for racial/ethnic identities. Still, available data shows that people of underrepresented racial/ethnic identities appear to have increased representation overall and in several AAAS/Science functions. Across these combined functions, the second-most-prominent racial/ethnic identity shifted from Black or African American in 2020 to Asian or Pacific Islander in 2021, likely due to improved accuracy with increased data coverage.

It should be noted that the proportion of people with underrepresented racial/ethnic identities decreased for AAAS staff leadership. However, because it is a small group (in 2020, the sample was 21 people and in 2021 it was 25), slight changes are amplified when expressed as percentages or ratios. Still, it is likely an actual shift occurred, since data coverage was high and stable. It appears that while AAAS staff leadership was expanded such that more women were included, most of the additions identified as White. Notably, people with underrepresented racial/ethnic identities currently occupy some of the most influential positions among AAAS staff leadership (such as the CEO and CFO).

Improved data coverage for Science family authors and reviewers is associated with increased representation for all racial/ethnic identities, especially for those who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander. It's noteworthy that representation for people who identify as White (non-Hispanic) decreased and representation of those who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander increased for all subgroups within this function.

Track two: AAAS advocacy and programs

In 2021, AAAS continued efforts to bolster DEI across the scientific enterprise. The report highlights a snapshot of activities AAAS and the Science family of journals have undertaken to either elevate the importance of DEI or drive progress.

While DEI work is happening across departments, AAAS highlighted several departments where this work is most prevalent.

For example, the Office of Science, Policy and Society Programs (OSPSP) has eight programs where DEI is either at embedded or, in some cases, at the heart of what these programs do. OSPSP oversees initiatives such as the AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassador program, which brings together 125 women from a variety of science, technology, engineering, math & medicine (STEMM) careers to serve as role models for middle-school girls, and the Dialogue on Science, Ethics & Religion (DoSER) program, which facilitates meaningful communication between the religious and scientific communities on science, technology, and society.

Our Office of Government Relations also advocated for federal policies that either factor in DEI or do not unintentionally leave out or negatively impact certain segments of society. AAAS CEO Dr. Sudip Parikh provided congressional testimony on DEI in STEMM while AAAS submitted four letters for public comment on DEI issues at several federal agencies. As one example, AAAS has been advocating for higher salaries and employee-like benefits for graduate and postdoctoral students.

Track three: AAAS' internal DEI actions

Throughout 2021, AAAS also committed itself to bolstering DEI practices within the organization itself.

To improve recruitment, AAAS hired a DEI manager, increased outreach methods to diversify the candidate pool, created a consistent interview plan to ensure bias is reduced, and provided annual manager recruitment training to ensure inclusive hiring.

AAAS has also been evaluating compensation to make it more equitable by examining salary data across levels and titles. Meanwhile, the organization engaged The Winters Group to host a required DEI learning series for staff leadership, people managers and all staff to get everyone aligned on key terms, concepts, and cultural competencies.

The AAAS Board of Directors and staff leadership also review monthly demographic data of AAAS staff to ensure transparency and help inform decision-making processes.

Where we go from here

Diversity of thought derived from diversity of experience drives teams to the pinnacle of scientific excellence. Because of that, AAAS will continue to prioritize DEI in 2022 and beyond.

The organization's efforts in this area will include, but are not be limited to, increasing demographic data collection, increasing the representation of women and other underrepresented groups among Science family reviewers and invited authors, continuing advocacy efforts to make our policies and careers more equitable and inclusive, and offering additional DEI training sessions and resources for staff to practice inclusive and equitable behavior in the workplace.




Zaid Jilani

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