University of Wisconsin-Madison

Multimessenger Diversity Network welcomes new members, discusses future efforts in July meeting

Credit: Jazmine Zuniga-Paiz
Credit: Jazmine Zuniga-Paiz

From July 22-24, the Multimessenger Diversity Network (MDN) met at the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center, located at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the lead institution of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

The MDN shares insights and expertise in the multimessenger astrophysics community to strengthen efforts to deploy, organize, and manage diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Members of the MDN are energized and excited to be a part of the NSF INCLUDES program, a comprehensive national initiative designed to enhance U.S. leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) discoveries and innovations by focusing on broadening participation.

In March, the MDN’s foundational members met for a two-day workshop to discuss the vision, goals, and expected outcomes of the network. The July workshop focused on training and next steps and also welcomed new members from the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav), the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (Fermi), and the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory (Swift). NANOGrav is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and works to detect and understand low-frequency gravitational waves. The Fermi telescope performs gamma-ray astronomy observations from low Earth orbit, and the Swift Observatory is another NASA space telescope designed to detect gamma-ray bursts.

The MDN now has members from seven different multimessenger collaborations and recently submitted a white paper for the Astro 2020 Decadal Survey on how to improve DEI in multimessenger astronomy collaborations. The July MDN face-to-face meeting sought to build on these successes and continue to define the MDN and its efforts. Participants alse received further training on community management from Lou Woodley, Director of the Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The model of the MDN relies on its members becoming community engagement leads in their respective collaborations in order to bring about transformative initiatives. The first day of Woodley’s training explored the idea of community, community member roles, transferable skill sets, and the support the MDN can provide to the scientific community.

The second day focused on culture change and systems thinking. Engagement fellows got to work collectively, and in smaller groups, on labeling the intersecting barriers facing DEI at structural, individual, political, and symbolic levels. MDN members also spent time working on community playbooks for their respective collaborations—a living document detailing the vision, goals, structure, and activities of an organization/effort.

The final day was dedicated to group-wide discussion as well as small group work time. New fellows gave lightning talks, which provided an opportunity for members to get better acquainted with each other and their respective DEI efforts. Other topics included possible avenues for DEI resource dissemination, the upcoming webinar schedule, and future evaluation objectives.

Next steps in the works for the MDN consist of continued monthly webinar meetings, future face-to-face meetings, training sessions, and moving toward a stronger online presence.