Astro2020 APC White Paper: Providing a Timely Review of Input Demographics to Advisory Committees

Kavli Affiliate: Edmund Bertschinger

| First 5 Authors: Dara Norman, Terri J. Brandt, Nancy D. Morrison, Sarah Tuttle, Julie Rathbun

| Summary:

Organizations that support science (astronomy) such as federal agencies,
research centers, observatories, academic institutions, societies, etc. employ
advisory committees and boards as a mechanism for reviewing their activities
and giving advice on practices, policies and future directions. As with any
scientific endeavor, there is concern over complementing these committees with
enough members who have as broad a range of expertise and understanding as
possible, so that bias is mitigated. However, for a number of reasons
(logistical, practical, financial, etc.), committees can also not be infinitely
large and thus trade-offs must be made. It is often recognized that conflicts
of interest must be acknowledged within these committees, but what is not often
recognized it the potential for unmitigated biases and "group think" that can
be introduced as part of these committees.
In this white paper, we recommend that advisory committees that collect
community input, (e.g., the Decadal Survey review committee), also collect,
compile and review input demographic data before finalizing reports, (e.g., the
final 2020 Decadal Survey Report). A summary of these data should be released
alongside the final survey report. This information would enable the committee
to understand potential "blind spots" and biases of the data collection phase
and inform future data collections of any barriers that affect the omission of
perspectives from various demographics.

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