Photo of hands—men's and women's, different skin tones—clasped in a huddle.
AGU, the world’s largest organization of Earth and space scientists, is committed to including underrepresented groups in the sciences and promoting a diversity of voices and experiences in scientific fields. Credit: william87/depositphotos

When AGU president Eric Davidson announced the appointment of a panel in October 2017 to update AGU’s 2002 Diversity Plan, that notification followed closely behind the approval and release in the prior month of an updated ethics policy by the Board and Council. In charging the new panel, Davidson stated, “AGU has succeeded in widespread culture change in our governance to ensure that students and early career voices are present and heard at virtually all meetings of committees and other governance bodies. In contrast, we have made discouragingly little progress in advancing inclusion of other under-represented groups, such as African-American, African, Hispanic, and Native North American students and science professionals. We (also) have very little information about inclusion of the LGBTQ community.”

Davidson went on to say that “finding the right paths forward will require significant research and deliberation and iterative steps of actions and evaluations over the long term. This task force is being asked to take an initial step to help guide AGU as it embarks on that journey.”

The current AGU Diversity Plan, last updated in 2002, “does not reflect many of the issues of today, nor does it reflect AGU’s global membership composition.”

The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force has completed its charge and is now seeking feedback from AGU members on the updates it is recommending in a new Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.

Understanding the Community’s Needs

“The current AGU Diversity Plan was last updated in 2002, and at that time focused on U.S.-only diversity definitions and issues. That outdated plan does not reflect many of the issues of today, nor does it reflect AGU’s global membership composition,” said Jill Karsten, task force chair and former program director for education and diversity within the National Science Foundation’s Geosciences Directorate. “We believe this updated plan is very timely and is also very forward looking. It aligns with the AGU strategy and will help put into action AGU’s leadership and its values.”

The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was asked to review the current state of AGU diversity and inclusion practices as they relate to recommended best practices, the policies and practices of other professional/scholarly societies, and the needs of AGU members. The updated plan includes definitions of both diversity and inclusion for AGU and also provides immediate recommended actions AGU should consider across its programs. “We were fortunate to have a very engaged and knowledgeable team of task force members, gathered from across the globe, to help address these important issues,” Karsten added.

Driving Change Beyond AGU

Recommendations from the task force’s work include proposals for AGU not only to provide resources and support for its members but also to serve as a model for other organizations.

The new plan identifies five priority goals that broadly address the following aspects of diversity and inclusion:

  • the culture of the Earth and space sciences
  • the climate of AGU operations for its members
  • AGU members as agents of change
  • AGU’s leadership role within the larger Earth and space sciences community
  • AGU as a model organization for promoting diversity in science

Community Input Is Critical

The deadline to provide comments is 12 November at 11:59 p.m.

To complete the task force’s work, AGU now invites all members to review the draft revised Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan and provide comments, which will be reviewed by the task force. The form for submitting comments can be accessed on the AGU website, as can the revised plan. The deadline to provide comments is 12 November at 11:59 p.m. The task force anticipates completing its work and submitting its final recommendations to the AGU Board of Directors for approval by the end of the year.

As an organization, AGU’s mission is to “promote discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity,” but we cannot live up to all that our mission promises if the Earth and space science community is not representative of humanity. Science is strongest when diverse voices are welcomed, supported, and inspired to share their perspectives and ideas. The newly revised Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan will help us lead the way toward that envisioned future.

—Billy M. Williams (email:, Vice President, Ethics, Diversity, and Inclusion, AGU


Williams, B. M. (2018), Updated diversity and inclusion plan open for member comment, Eos, 99, Published on 10 October 2018.

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