Physics Climate Discussion: Annotated Bibliography

Why do diversity and inclusion enhance excellence in science?


If you have any suggested readings that are not included here or have any other comments for the Physics Climate Discussion Steering Committee, please use The comments on that site are anonymous unless you choose otherwise.


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General Climate
Statistics, general information on climate issues, and discussions of why diversity and inclusion enhance excellence in science.
  • Urry, M. Raising the Bar in Physics Graduate Education. APS News. May 2013, Volume 22, Number 5. (2 pages) 
    • These resources are from Professor Meg Urry of Yale. She is currently President of the American Astronomical Association (the equivalent of the APS for astronomy), and was the former Chair and the first tenured woman in the Yale Physics Department. She was a founding member of the Committee of the Status of Women in Physics (CSWP), and led many CSWP site visits to assess the gender climate in physics departments. The primary focus of her efforts on climate have been toward making the work and learning environment more inclusive and supportive for everyone, not just women. Having come from a physics background (both her BS and PhD were in physics), she argues that physics is now where astronomy was a generation ago with regard to gender climate. She is optimistic for physics in particular, and STEM fields in general, in spite of the fact that physics seems to lag behind astronomy, because of her experience over a thirty-year career in astronomy, which she believes shows that progress can be made when people work to make it happen.
Impostor Syndrome
  • Steele, Claude M. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. Norton & Company, Inc. 2010. Chapter 9. (21 pages)
    • This book is by a leading social psychologist, currently Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at UC Berkeley. It discusses research on 'stereotype threat', i.e. the type of threat an individual might feel if they come from a group that is associated with certain negative stereotypes. The PDF uploaded here summarizes work on things like the 'mentor's dilemma', i.e. how to provide constructive criticism to someone who might be experiencing anxiety about the mentor's beliefs in their abilities, due to stereotyping. This is a readable chapter, and raises important issues while also pointing to possible concrete actions to be taken. See also the research article 'The Mentor's Dilemma' and other readings under the 'race' headings on this site.
  • National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2015. Special Report NSF 15- 311. Arlington, VA.
  • APS Women in Physics. Best Practices for Recruiting and Retaining Women in Physics.
    • This APS website has a number of short webpages with action items for improving the gender climate. Each webpage targets a different section of a Physics departments population: undergraduate students, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and research scientists, and faculty. While the webpages do not typically reference studies, they do provide very succinct description of actions that a physics department can take to improve its gender climate. An accompanying webpages with references is somewhat dated. 
    • This is a good read if you have limited time.
  • MIT. Survey Results: 2014 Community Attitudes on Sexual Assault. (8 pages, mostly plots)
    • This report summarizes the results of a voluntary survey that MIT conducted among its undergraduate and graduate students. While the report explicitly targets sexual assault rates at MIT, it also details rates of different types of sexual harassment (from inappropriate comments to sexual misconduct). The report notes that reported statistics must be treated carefully, since they are from a voluntary survey with the potential for over or under reporting of rates due to self-selection of respondents. Nevertheless, the rates are not that different from those reported by the large multi-institution American Association of Universities (AAU) survey. The survey shows a roughly factor of 2 decrease in the (reported) rates of sexual harassment and sexual assault for the graduate student population as compared to the undergraduate population, which is consistent with the results of the larger multi-university AAU survey. 
  • Moss-Racusin C., et al. Science Faculty's subtle gender bias favor male students. PNAS 109 41, 16474-46479. 2012. (6 pages)
    • This paper describes a study performed in which STEM faculty were sent identical resumes except for the gender of the applicant. The faculty were asked to rate how competent the applicants were, and state whether they would offer them a job. There was a significant bias toward hiring the male candidates, who were also offered a higher starting salary. 
  • Nosek, B. A. National differences in gender-science stereotypes predict national sex differences in science and math achievement. PNAS (2009). (5 pages) 
    • This article presents the results from over half a million Implicit Association Tests taken by citizens from 34 countries and concludes that implicit stereotypes influence achievement gaps, and that the observation of these achievement gaps by a county's people further reinforces these implicit stereotypes. It suggests that attempting to reduce the implicit stereotypes of a country could in turn help decrease the achievement gap in those countries with implicit gender stereotypes for math and science. 
International Students
  • Wu, H., Garza, E., and Guzman, N. International Student’s Challenge and Adjustment to College. 2015. (10 pages)
    • The first 3 pages of this article provide an excellent discussion of the demographics of international students and the value of including international students in the academic community, and include a literature review on the challenges facing international students. The rest of the article presents a qualitative study of students from several backgrounds undertaken in Texas, which is a top-three location for international students, and provides recommendations for assisting international students. This involves offering not only academic help, but social and cultural aid as well. 
Mental Illness
  • Arnold, Carrie. Paying Graduate School's Mental Toll. Science. 2014. (4 pages)
    • This article discusses the mental stress put on graduate students, much of which is distinct from the stresses of undergraduate work, as well as the difficulties graduate students face in finding appropriate resources to help them deal with these issues, and cites previous research studies on the subject. It also offers advice for students on how to reduce these stresses and concludes by asking that professors be mindful of the health of their students and know how to help students find assistance if needed. 
  • Eisenberg, D. et al. Stigma And Help Seeking For Mental Health Among College Students. Medical Care Research and Review 66.5 (2009): 522-541.
    • This academic article is an in-depth study of personal and perceived public stigmas towards mental health issues among college students across a wide variety of demographics. It also includes a discussion on how colleges can work to eliminate these stigmas and thus encourage students to seek help when/if needed.
  • Walker, Jennifer. There’s an awful cost to getting a PhD that no one talks aboutNovember 12, 2015.
    • This essay discusses how being in a PhD program can be taxing mentally, leading to more depression and suicide attempts in academia. This is aggravated by a culture of disregarding mental illness as a weakness, and a lack of resources for students. The essay also cites several previous studies showing the high rates of mental health issues in academia.
  • Cohen, G. L., Steele, C. M., and Ross, L. D. The Mentor's Dilemma: Providing Critical Feedback Across the Racial Divide. (17 pages)
    • This 1999 paper by Cohen, Steele, and Ross, discusses a Stanford study which examined how white and African-American students responded to feedback on draft essays. Told they were submitting essays under consideration for the campus magazine, they were instead broken into subgroups and given different types of feedback: Type 1 = 'performance praise' (i.e. affirmation alone), Type 2 = 'invocation of high standards' (without indication that the student could meet these standards), and Type 3 a combination of invocation of high standards and affirmation of a belief the student could meet them. The results of the study suggests there was a clear difference in the response to faculty feedback between the white and African-American students if only Type 1 or 2 feedback was provided, while for Type 3 both groups showed a willingness to take constructive feedback and improve their work. This is believed by the authors to be evidence of 'stereotype threat'. (See also 'Whistling Vivaldi' by Steele, under the 'general' heading on this site. This study is discussed in the chapter 'Reducing identity and stereotype threat', pps 161-164.)
  • Miller, C. and Stassun, K. A Test that Fails. (4 pages)
    • This Nature article provides statistics on the achievement gap between minorities and genders seen on the GRE, which are then transmitted to STEM graduate programs. It suggests that there are significantly more effective methods to select graduate students, which several programs have tested. These programs reached completion rates of 80%, all while recruiting significantly higher numbers of minority and female students (most of which would have been eliminated by a GRE cutoff of 700). 
  • Moss, A. Does it Matter if People are Aware of Their Implicit Racial Bias? July 2015. (4 pages)
    • This blog post discusses implicit bias as shown by implicit association tests (IATs). Due to the social unacceptability of prejudice against minorities, many IAT takers have difficulty accepting their results and even taking an IAT can be threatening to many white people, as it offers the opportunity for the stereotype of white people being racist to be 'confirmed' in spite of their self image. Recent studies have indicated that if people are more willing to believe that they may have implicit biases before taking an IAT they are more willing to accept the results and were more likely to recognize implicit bias as a form of discrimination.
  • Prescod-Weinstein, C. Ain't I a woman? At the intersection of gender, race and sexuality. 2014.
    • This blog post is by Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a Martin Luther King, Jr. Postdoctoral Fellow at the MIT Department of Physics. In it she emphasizes that in discussions addressing diversity - or the lack thereof - grouping various groups (like women, underrepresented minorities, and queer people) together under an umbrella term such as “underprivileged” or “marginalized” undermines their experiences, not only because each of these groups has separate issues that should each be explicitly addressed, but also because phrases like “underprivileged” imply that being treated the same as one’s colleagues regardless of race or gender or sexual orientation is a privilege, when it is actually a right.
Sexual Identity
  • “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”: The Academic Climate for LGBT Faculty in Science and Engineering. (21 pages)
    • This article presents a study conducted through fourteen in-depth, open-ended interviews about the workplace climate and inclusiveness experienced by lesbian and gay faculty in science and engineering departmentsThe researchers conclude that a negative workplace climate is associated with negative internal consequences (e.g. fearfulness) as well as negative career consequences (e.g. exclusion and lower career satisfaction), while a positive workplace climate is associated with LGBT status not affecting one's career. Additionally, internal experiences of LGBT faculty may in turn affect the workplace climate, and the roles LGBT faculty take on can amplify or buffer the positive or negative effects of the workplace climate
  • Rankin, S. et al. 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People. CampusPride. 2010. (24 pages)
    • This report presents the results of the 2010 National College Climate Survey. An emerging theme within the study revealed the perception that transgender oppression is manifested in blatant ways where heterosexism is often more subtle. The report then outlines best practices, including developing inclusive policies, integrating LGBTQQ issues in curricular education, responding appropriately to anti-LGBTQQ incidents, as well as others. 
Socioeconomic Background
  • American Institute of Physics. Underrepresented Minorities in High School PhysicsUnderrepresented Minorities in High School Physics Results from the 2012-13 Nationwide Survey of High School Physics Teachers. June 2015. (7 pages)
    • This AIP report gives statistics on high schools and how their economic conditions affect their physics offerings.