APS News

NSBP Calls for Hearings on Discrimination at DOE Labs

In January, the National Society of Black Physicists called for hearings on the May 2002 GAO report regarding discrimination, employment and equal opportunity oversight at the DOE National Labs, "DOE Weapons Laboratories: Actions Needed to Strengthen EEO Oversight" (GAO-02-391).

The report was prepared at the request of Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and David Wu (D-OR), members of the House Science Committee in the 107th Congress.

The GAO report discusses a number of EEO concerns at the DOE weapons labs. These include compensation, promotion and work environment differences. While the GAO report analyzes several job categories, NSBP is mostly interested in the professional scientific workforce that is at the core of the labs' enterprises.

In May 2002, APS NEWS published an article written by Keith Jackson, President of NSBP, entitled "The Status of the African-American Physicist in the DOE National Laboratories."

This article reports the results of a survey on the number of African-American physicists employed at all the DOE national labs. The results of the survey show that African-American PhD physicists are less than 0.4% of the PhD physicists employed at the DOE labs, compared to a 3% representation among American born physicists.

"Our central issue is the underutilization of and the apparent paucity of opportunities for African-American physicists at the DOE labs," the NSBP said in its press release. "The fact is that the DOE labs have not been inventive and aggressive in recruiting domestic African-American and Hispanic-American scientific talent."

The labs' research programs have substantial scientific interaction with non-US institutions, but formal scientific interactions between domestic Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) schools are rare.

Furthermore, many STEM jobs are in sectors like aerospace, electronics and biotechnology, where the United States can expect fierce competition from the very countries that supply our foreign workforce. These countries will increasingly retain their high tech workers as internal opportunities grow. The DOE labs are currently rich training grounds for foreign scientists, and this is undoubtedly leading to growth in the middle class in overseas economies.

However, NSBP feels that there is an unfilled commitment to training of domestic scientists by the DOE labs, especially African-American and Hispanic-American scientists. "The US is fast approaching the point where it cannot depend on immigration to fulfill its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) human capital needs," the release continued. "The concurrency of the problems of homeland security, the war on terrorism and the looming retirements of experienced scientists compels action by Congress and the Administration... Hearings on this GAO report is an appropriate and necessary first step for the Congress to assure the American people of diversity, equity, security and excellence at the DOE national labs."

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette