Site Visits

APS has had a long-standing interest in improving the climate in physics departments for underrepresented minorities and women. The site visit program was initially developed to investigate the climate for minorities in physics, and later extended to investigate the climate for women in physics. Currently, the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics (CSWP) sponsors site visits programs, and there is an option to jointly host a site visit with the  Committee on Minorities (COM).

The experience and perspective of the site visit team can help you bring your facility's current strengths into better focus and pinpoint changes you can make to increase recruitment and retention of women and minority faculty, students, and employees. APS has found that improving the climate for women and minorities also improves the climate for other members of the department.

The goals of these visits are two-fold:

  1. Provide an outside appraisal of the environment experienced by women and minorities within the department or lab

  2. Provide suggestions to leadership for interventions or changes that can address practices that might limit or reduce participation by underrepresented groups

Past Site Visits

Gray arrow Site Visits 1990 - Present

Request a Visit

Gray arrow Contact women@aps.org

Requesting a Visit

Site visits are conducted only at the request of a department chair or lab director.  Please email women@aps.org with the subject line “Site Visit Request for [Institution]”. Include your name and whether you would like a CSWP visit or CSWP/COM joint visit.  

Prior to the Visit

The department chair or lab director will receive a response from APS or an APS committee member. APS will assemble a site visit team, and the team leader will consult the department chair/lab director regarding any special characteristics of the department/lab, and will make every effort to choose team members from the same geographical area as the department to minimize travel costs. A social scientist may be included in the team to contribute their expertise to the discussion. The group will mutually agree upon a date for the visit. 

Students and employees will be asked to complete a confidential survey for the team's use only, which will help the team prepare for the visit. The data from this survey will not be made available to the department. The department or laboratory will be asked to provide information, including enrollment statistics by gender, race/ethnicity, faculty roster, recent hiring activity, recruiting brochures, and family leave policies.

During the Visit

Members of the site visit team will request meetings with various groups including

  • Department leadership
  • Members of the faculty, students (undergraduate and graduate), staff, and postdocs; these visits are typically requested in segregated groups specified by the visiting team
  • Institutional leadership responsible for employment/hiring decisions
  • Members of committees responsible for recruiting and admitting students; making hiring recommendations; etc.

After the Visit

The site visit team will conduct an exit interview with the department chair or lab director to render a preliminary report of its findings. A confidential written report, detailing the findings of the visit and offering practical suggestions on improving the climate for minorities or women, will be sent to the chair/lab director. The chair/lab director is encouraged to share the report with the rest of the department/lab. Data obtained in the survey is confidential, and will not be released to the department. The chair/lab director will be asked to report back to the site visit team leader 18 months after the visit, describing changes which have occurred as a result of the visit and any outcomes that resulted from these changes. This information is used to evaluate the impact of the APS program, and no information will be shared publically unless permission is given by the department..

Cost

Site visit costs include (1) travel expenses including airfare, food, lodging, and local transportation for site visit team, which is typically 3-5 people depending on the department size, and (2) $1,500 to administer and compile survey data and offset administrative costs associated with the site visit. Insitutions will reimburse travel expenses directly to site visit team, and APS will invoice institutions for the administration fee. 

In addition, the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics and APS Committee on Minorities request that institutions receiving a site visit consider a voluntary stipend of $1,000 for each member of the site visit team. As with other site visits, such as external evaluations, the APS site visit team provides an important service to the institution, and request that the work of the team members be recognized with a stipend. This stipend is voluntary; choosing whether or not to grant a stipend to team members will not affect the work of the team, nor should a site should refrain from requesting a site visit based on ability to pay this stipend. APS will collect and distribute stipends along with relevant tax information (1099’s) to site visit team as appropriate.

Suggested Reading

  • Best Practices
    Suggestions to assist departments in finding and keeping women physics faculty, postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students.  

  • "What Works for Women in Undergraduate Physics"
    Barbara Whitten, et al., presents the results of site visits to nine undergraduate physics departments with high participation by women.