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December 09, 2020

Academies Report Shows NASA Must Improve Diversity in University Leadership Initiative Program

(Washington, DC) — Today, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) Committee to Assess NASA’s University Leadership Initiative released a new consensus study report entitled, “Assessing NASA’s University Leadership Initiative.” This report was initiated by a provision in H.R. 5666, the NASA Authorization Act of 2020, directing NASA to review an aeronautics University Leadership Initiative (ULI) program. The University Leadership Initiative was created by NASA to engage students in identifying significant aeronautics and aviation research challenges and to propose solutions for those challenges.

“I am glad that the National Academies supported the completion of this report in advance of the NASA Authorization becoming a law,” said Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “The ULI is just the type of program that can help build the pipeline to meet the nation’s increasing demands for cutting-edge skills and talent in aviation and aerospace. Over the course of my career, one of my top priorities has to been to promote participation of women and minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. The National Academies report makes clear that NASA has more work to do in increasing the diversity of ULI participants. We must ensure that women, minorities, minority-serving institutions, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities play an increasingly large role if we are to remain competitive in aeronautics, aviation, and all STEM fields. I urge NASA to carefully review the committee’s recommendations and begin finding ways to implement them.”

“I’m pleased to see the National Academies review of the University Leadership Initiative, following our intent in the NASA Authorization Act of 2020," said Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Kendra Horn (D-OK). "Our universities are hubs of innovation, and it’s clear that ULI is increasing opportunities for students in research and building a pipeline of talent. However, this week’s report also shows a lack of diversity in the program. Fostering diversity at NASA is important to address inequality and to grow the pipeline, and it’s a critical component of good science. Differences in background and perspective drive scientific progress. NASA must do more to increase the participation of women, HBCUs, minority-serving institutions, and underrepresented minority students in ULI. I look forward to hearing from NASA about how it will address the report’s recommendations.”