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By Michael Lucibella
The American Physical Society announced that it is putting together a new committee to look into issues of discrimination and exclusion in the field of physics based on sexual identity, gender identity, and gender expression. The Committee on LGBT Issues is charged with preparing a report on ways to make the physics community more inclusive to individuals who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or other sexual and gender minorities. The report is due out by spring of 2016.
The committee plans to start with a survey of physics institutions across the country. “We’re interested in understanding the climate for LGBT physicists,” said Michael Falk, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University and chair of the new committee. “The first thing we have to do is a lot of fact-finding,” Falk said. “We should try to get a measure of how many of us...there [are], where we are,… [and] the issues that LGBT physicists face.”
Falk added that he expected to see a lot of variation across the country’s physics institutions. “I don’t think it’s necessarily an easy thing to get a simple picture of,” Falk said. “Some places are very welcoming, while other places are very exclusionary.”
In addition, the committee is charged with putting together a list of recommended changes to common policies and practices in the physics community that affect LGBT physicists.
The committee grew out of LGBT+ Physicists, a group founded by Elena Long of the University of New Hampshire. She formed the small, informal forum in 2009 after finding few resources available for LGBT individuals once they completed their academic training. “There was really an entire lack of resources at the time,” Long said. “I thought I would just start collecting them.”
The group started meeting at the APS March Meeting, beginning in 2010. In 2012 the APS Committee on Minorities and the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics donated an invited session with 5 speakers to the group to present and discuss issues faced by LGBT physicists.
“APS and the LGBT+ Physicists group have been working together for a number of years,” Long said. “We’ve kind of been building this relationship with APS from the start…. We’re working to make the field of physics better and more inclusive.”
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