WASHINGTON, April 5, 2022 – TEAM-UP Together, a new initiative by the American Institute of Physics and key physics and astronomy societies, boldly takes the first steps toward achieving a goal of doubling the number of African Americans graduating college with undergraduate degrees in physics and astronomy by 2030. The AIP Foundation has secured a $12.5 million, five-year game-changing grant from the Simons Foundation and Simons Foundation International in support of this AIP federation action.
"AIP and AIP Foundation are thrilled to partner with the Simons Foundation and Simons Foundation International in our shared commitment to ensuring greater diversity in the next generation of scientists and increasing representation in physics and astronomy in particular," said Michael Moloney, CEO of AIP.
"AIP is deeply grateful for the visionary leadership this Simons grant represents. In response, I can assure the physics and astronomy community that we at AIP are now more laser-focused than ever on increasing the number of African American students in these disciplines by promoting diversity, equity, and belonging through TEAM-UP Together and our 2030 goal."
TEAM-UP Together will launch in 2022 with the aim of providing both direct financial support to students and grants to physics and astronomy departments that are committed to changing the lived experience of their African American students. The 2030 graduation goal is a key benchmark set in a groundbreaking report from AIP's National Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy (TEAM-UP).
The report, The Time is Now, was published in 2020 after a two-year in-depth study into understanding and cataloging the factors driving persistent underrepresentation of African Americans in these fields. TEAM-UP Together is a direct response to that report's recommended actions and its call for a consortium of societies to address funding for students and for departments committed to systemic change.
The percentage of African Americans earning degrees in physics and astronomy has been appallingly and persistently low for more than two decades. According to a survey from AIP's Statistical Research Center, just 3% of physics bachelor's degrees were earned by African Americans for the class of 2018. For comparison, African Americans earned 10% of all bachelor's degrees awarded for the 2017-18 school year.
"Since we first started planning for this initiative, AIP has been convinced we can build clearer pathways to success by collaborating with key Member Societies within the AIP federation and particularly with those who share deep connections with physics and astronomy undergraduate students and departments across this country," Moloney said.
"This new model of AIP partnership for collective action will be imperative to achieving our common goals of engaging with Black students, so they thrive as undergraduates, earn their degrees, and become change-makers in our scientific enterprise. And while this effort involves three of AIP's Member Societies in the design and implementation of this collective action, I know we have strong support from the other seven Member Societies and the diverse group of AIP Affiliates."
The grant will initially fund scholarships for undergraduate students who are attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities or Predominantly Black Institutions. Later, it will support Black physics and astronomy students at all institutions across the United States. AIP and the Society of Physics Students will administer the student scholarship application and distribute funding.
"The TEAM-UP report has identified the strengths of programs that have trained a significant number of African American physics majors," said Simons Foundation and Simons Foundation International president David Spergel. "The Simons Foundation and Simons Foundation International are excited to partner with AIP to support their effort to double the number of African American undergraduate physics majors."
The funding would also support undergraduate departments committed to implementing the TEAM-UP report recommendations at their institutions. AIP will be joined by the American Astronomical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Physical Society in providing financial and programmatic support that will assist physics and astronomy departments committed to systemic change that aligns with the TEAM-UP report recommendations.
"Creating a more inclusive community is not only a moral necessity but also an essential step to strengthen our discipline," said Monica Plisch, director of programs at APS. "With the generous support of the Simons Foundation and Simons Foundation International, we are committed to enhancing our programs to better serve and increase the representation of African Americans in physics."
"The TEAM-UP report identified two main reasons for underrepresentation of African Americans in physics/astronomy: financial challenges and a lack of a supportive environment," said AAS president Paula Szkody. "This Simons grant will ensure both factors will be addressed through scholarships and department activities to enhance belonging. The AAS is delighted and committed to being an active part of the program to double the number of African American astronomers by 2030."
"Changing the culture of physics and astronomy departments so that the number of African American students graduating with physics degrees will double by 2030 is critical to the future of science and our society," said Beth Cunningham, CEO of AAPT. "Coupling support for departmental change with financial support for students will help us to achieve this goal. We are delighted to be partnering with AIP, AAS, and APS on this important project."
The TEAM-UP Together partners are committed to increasing African American representation in science. The scholarships and department funding are just the beginning of that journey toward the 2030 doubling goal. More details about programs will be announced at a future date and promoted within the physical sciences community.
ABOUT AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is a 501(c)(3) membership corporation of scientific societies. AIP pursues its mission -- to advance, promote, and serve the physical sciences for the benefit of humanity -- with a unifying voice of strength from diversity. In its role as a federation, AIP advances the success of its Member Societies by providing the means to pool, coordinate, and leverage their diverse expertise and contributions in pursuit of a shared goal of advancing the physical sciences in the research enterprise, in the economy, in education, and in society. In its role as an institute, AIP operates as a center of excellence using policy analysis, social science, and historical research to promote future progress in the physical sciences.
AIP Foundation is a 501(c)(3) supporting foundation, established to generate philanthropic support to deepen and share the history and importance of the physical sciences throughout the world, motivate and encourage a new generation of scientists, and strengthen our commitment toward creating a more equitable and accessible physical sciences field for all.