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Setting a higher standard

15 Jul 2015, 19:00 UTC
Setting a higher standard
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There has been a lot written lately, on this blog and elsewhere, about bad behavior in astronomy and other professions. The human cost is terrible, and responsible scientists should not ignore them, even if they are not directly affected. The blog entries below about sexual harassment, and many of the responses are heart-breaking. And these are just the tip of an iceberg -- much more abuse and suffering is unreported than reported.Having been head of a large physics department, and now as a university-wide equity officer, I have a lot of data indicating that in its prevalence of people problems Astronomy is not unusual among academic disciplines, nor among professions in general. I've concluded that theoretical astrophysics is much easier than optimizing the success of a talented group of people in an organization. Physicists solve easy problems using idealized models. A different set of skills is needed to solve real-world problems involving real people.I have a lot of thoughts, a few recommended actions, but no master equation solve the problems preventing people from achieving their potential. Here are a few suggestions.1. Care. One of my favorite quotes comes from President Theodore Roosevelt: "People don't care how much you know ...

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