Statement from UCAR on institutional racism

A letter from the UCAR President & the Board of Trustees

Jun 11, 2020 - by Staff

On May 25, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, who kneeled on his neck for more than 8 minutes while three other officers watched and failed to intervene. This incident has sparked worldwide protests and condemnation from other officers and police chiefs, and it led to the firing of all four officers with charges of second-degree murder and the aiding and abetting of second-degree murder. 

Mr. Floyd’s horrific death has once again highlighted the deadly institutional and interpersonal racism that puts all of our family, friends, and colleagues of color at risk every day. These tragic events have been made even more excruciating by the backdrop of a pandemic that has served to sharpen and deepen systemic inequities in this country. 

As we reflect on these deeply troubling issues, we invite our fellow leaders and colleagues in the Earth system sciences to remember that institutionalized racism pervades our own community as well. This problem is not new. We have known for decades that Black people and other people of color, along with women and other historically marginalized groups, are not represented proportionally in our fields. While this issue of representation in science is less deadly than the problem of police violence against Black Americans, the effects on people’s lives are no less real. Many Black scientists are driven out of the field altogether by the existing racism, and their potential scientific contributions are lost. Those who stay miss out on job opportunities, promotions, and fair compensation, and they often suffer significant impacts to their mental and physical health as a result of hostile work environments.

This loss of a critical section of our scientific community has an enormous negative impact on our ability to meet the historic challenges we now face, including a rapidly changing climate that also disproportionately affects marginalized communities. As a leading organization in Earth system science, there can be no debate that a diverse workforce and a diversity of ideas, life experiences, and perspectives are essential to the research we do and its impact on society. 

At UCAR, we are committed to improving our support for Black scientists and others who are from communities that are underrepresented in the geosciences. We are proud of the work we have done so far, from our mentorship programs, to our in-depth staff training, to the overhauling of our hiring and recruiting practices, and our overall efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Yet we have not seen nearly enough progress. At UCAR, fewer than 2% of our staff are Black, and collectively, people from underrepresented racial groups make up only 7.2% of our organization. The landscape beyond UCAR is not better. Only 2.1% of undergraduate degrees, 1.4% of master’s degrees, and 1.2% of doctoral degrees in the Earth, atmospheric, and oceanic sciences are awarded to Black students.

We have heard the recent call from Black scientists and others in our community to take action and to renew our efforts to move the needle on the persistent issues of underrepresentation in the geosciences and the systemic racism that causes it. We would like to share with you some of the work we are recommitting to and invite the authors of this call to meet with us to discuss how we can accelerate our progress.

Actions at UCAR:

  • Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan lays out our goal of reaching demographic parity with the graduating cohorts in our field within the next 10 years. Our Workforce Management Plan currently under development will outline specific steps to achieve this.
  • In-depth equity and inclusion training (UNEION) is offered to all staff to educate about identity, power, privilege, gendered and racial dynamics, and bystander intervention techniques. As of May, UCAR’s top leaders are being required to take the course as a cohort and, beginning in the fall, we are offering a UNEION 201 course to the 101-level graduates to explicitly explore race and racism. 
  • We are continuing to expand the SOARS program, which has provided intensive mentorship and support for more than two decades to students from underrepresented groups. More than 80 percent of SOARS participants, who begin the program as undergraduates, continue on to graduate school. In recent years we have fostered two satellite SOARS programs, at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign and  the University of Central Florida, and a third satellite program will be up and running soon. We are also excited that two SOARS alumni have been accepted into NCAR’s prestigious Advanced Study Program as postdoctoral researchers this year.  
  • We have overhauled our hiring practices to better recruit diverse candidates. This includes mandatory training in implicit bias for all hiring committee members, a requirement for diverse hiring committees, a condition that all applicant pools must include both gender and racial diversity before a position is closed, and a mandatory inclusion statement from all candidates for STEM and management jobs who are invited for an interview. We are analyzing the effects of these changes on our hiring outcomes over the past year before considering further changes.  
  • We are requiring every lab and program within our organization to outline diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and implementation plans, and holding unit directors accountable for progress on these goals.
  • We are part-way through developing a strategic plan to strengthen our relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions in a meaningful and mutually beneficial way, including co-created research partnerships. Two new MSIs have joined as UCAR Members in the last four years out of a total of 12 new members. As part of the strategic plan, we will be focusing on how we can more effectively support our HBCU/MSI members, and we are also looking at ways to make UCAR membership more accessible to new MSI members. 

There are more actions underway in addition to these, which are outlined in UCAR’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan. However, we are committed to finding more ways to make real progress beyond what we have already outlined in our strategic plan, and we ask our community to help guide us. Over the next couple of months, we invite all UCAR staff and our colleagues at our member universities to reach out to us with actionable ideas and suggestions about how we can lead the Earth system science community in fighting systemic racism.

Please send your ideas and suggestions for further action to UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi at or UCAR Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Carolyn Brinkworth at


Antonio Busalacchi
UCAR President

Susan Avery, UCAR Board of Trustees Chair
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Lourdes B. Avilés, Trustee
Plymouth State University

Raymond J. Ban, Trustee
Ban & Associates, LLC

Kristie Boering, Trustee
University of California, Berkeley

Al Diaz, Trustee
Marymount University

Rana Fine, Trustee
University of Miami

Michael Freilich, Trustee
Oregon State University

Charlette Geffen, Trustee
Pacific Northwest National Lab

James E. Geringer, Trustee
Environmental Systems Research Institute

Sherri Goodman, Trustee
Wilson Center

Kathy Jacobs, Trustee
University of Arizona

Petra Klein, Trustee
University of Oklahoma

Gudrun Magnusdottir, Trustee
University of California, Irvine

Michael Morgan, Trustee
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Vernon Morris, Trustee
Howard University

David Randall, Trustee
Colorado State University

Kathleen Ritzman, Trustee
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Christine Wiedinmyer, Trustee
University of Colorado Boulder



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