Policies for Working with Communities of Color


Travel and fieldwork, as well as academic research and instruction, will involve exchanges with local communities of color. It is important to understand the longstanding history of the land we work on, and the contributions to our work from communities who are disproportionately affected by past and present colonialism. Members of our department will directly benefit from working effectively and respectfully with communities of color. It is tremendously valuable, if not critical to the success of UCLA and EPSS research, to access local communities’ knowledge of geography, geology, culture, resources, and languages. It is also essential that the academic community at UCLA acknowledges the contributions of these individuals to the success of UCLA and EPSS research.

Much of our deliverable utilizes anecdotal evidence for proposing changes and summarizing findings simply due to the lack of resources available on working with communities of color in academia. Other resources pertinent to working with communities of color at UCLA and in EPSS are at the end of the document. In our findings, we attempt to keep our language general, particularly with respect to researchers and their work in the department. The specific examples highlighted below focus on experiences of pod members.

The document concludes with a questionnaire that researchers can use to direct their work towards more diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Proposals for change

  • Fieldwork
    • Field trip participants should be reminded to respect found artifacts (e.g.: arrowheads) depending on the type of site (national park, national forest, state parks, local parks, non-park land, etc.). As a rule of thumb- do not touch the found artifact; do take a photograph and provide the park with GPS coordinates. 
  • Courses
    • Instructors and facilitators should be encouraged to acknowledge local communities of color (e.g.: Indigenous land acknowledgement) at the beginning of a course, discussion section, student orientation, field trip etc.
    • When discussing the history of scientific endeavors, instructors should make a conscious effort to include contributions from, or impacts on, communities of color- making use of material for example from the GEOCONTEXT project https://geo-context.github.io .
  • Research
    • UCLA and EPSS should encourage labs and/or research groups to answer this questionnaire.
    • Researchers should be encouraged to acknowledge local communities of color (e.g.: Indigenous land acknowledgement) in papers and/or proposals.
    • The EPSS DEI coordinator could potentially review activities, procedures, and any past incidents in the department related to working with communities of color.

Our Findings

This is what was found by UCLA EPSS pod at University of California Los Angeles on Policies for Working with Communities of Color as well as plans for improved processes and/or needed resources. Universities may have individuals from a range of career stages and involvement in the development and execution of research projects. Different individuals will naturally have different experiences and perspectives with respect to working with Communities of Color. URGE has done its best to capture this diversity below, as well as in the questionnaire that follows.

  1. Departmental Audit/Review Considerations

We believe that specifically calling individuals out for their research or teaching experiences is misaligned with the pod’s intentions. Our primary goal with this audit will be to assess previous interactions with communities of color in our department. 

E.g. How many research projects were undertaken in countries or regions with communities of color, how many of those included meaningful interactions with those communities of color? Briefly describe one or more example projects to provide context for the following questions.

  1. How is EPSS academically involved with communities of color?

Geology – Field work in Tibet/ Mongolia/India

       Field work in California

       Courses taught locally in the field

       Environmental Science Without Borders

Geophysics – Central America network

            Data from Global network

Geochemistry – 

Space Physics – Ground Magnetometers (McMac/AMBER/SAMBA installations – installing ground based magnetometer observatories in continental US/ Africa/ South America). For these installations, they utilized schools to provide infrastructure (internet, power) and have a local caretaker that is a steward for the equipment.

Planetary Science – Use of observatories on indegenous lands: Maunakea Observatories in Hawai’i. Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) in Arizona on the land of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Arecibo (prior to collapse).

        Infrastructure for spacecraft missions (facilities for fabrication, launch, DSN)

  1. Breakdown by Research Location

UCLA EPSS involvement in fieldwork, research, and coursework necessitates travel to various sites for data collection, surveying, instrument use etc. Here, we attempt to examine the importance of working with Communities of Color at specific sites that pod members have had direct experience with. Our goal is to learn what about these interactions can be improved and how we can go about incorporating them into UCLA EPSS’s field, research, and teaching guides.

Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)

The construction of the TMT on Mauna Kea will be used as an example to summarize pod members’ experiences in other research locations.

  1. What worked well in these interactions?
  • E.g. Using local names for landmarks or features, adhering to restrictions and customs such as not scheduling outreach meetings/events during hunting season
  • Programs created to educate Hawaii students, to sustain a workforce pipeline that supports hawaiian residents from university to job acquisition in hawaii, internship programs at science and tech companies in hawaii: https://www.tmt.org/page/wepoc-programs
  • Respecting Hawaiian Culture and Protecting the natural resources of Maunakea: Cultural training, cultural and archaeological monitoring, observing native hawaiian cultural practices, Incorporating hawaiian music and art, hawaiian language astronomy lessons and community tours, blending into environmental surroundings, reducing traffic 
  • The Facts About TMT on MaunaKea: cultural, environmental, community and financial impacts, as well as compliance, and history of community outreach, and science impact. 
  • Consulted with Native Hawaiian groups
  • Provided opportunities for community feedback
  • Held more than 20 public meetings
  • Participated in one-on-one meetings, small and larger group presentations
  • Engaged in open dialog and meaningful discussions with community members and stakeholders 
  1. What did not work well, and how can this be better addressed in future plans?
  • E.g., We did not include priorities of local communities of color when developing our proposal, and to address this in the future we will include community member(s) in the early stages of proposal planning and writing as collaborators
  • 2009: Initial site testing did not call for collaboration with native hawaiians, nor did it acknowledge the native hawaiians and the fact that this land is sacred. This goes for the other sites studied in this work as well: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1086/599287/pdf
  • Complaints that scientists come to Hawaii to use the telescope without respecting or recognizing the land, causing more traffic as scientists have to go to work up the mountain, the telescopes are an eyesore, etc. TMT is working to address these worries directly with training, traffic reduction programs, and putting TMT in a location that will go unseen when at a sacred site on the mountain. Astronomers do not do the training however, and this needs to be addressed. 
  • 2019: While the majority of Hawaiian voting citizens are in favor of building TMT, the native Hawaiian community is split as of the latest polling: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/08/civil-beat-poll-strong-support-for-tmt-but-little-love-for-ige/
  1. Are there ways to improve the outcome of projects already undertaken?
  • E.g., Work with and compensate community members to translate research results and outreach materials into local language, include acknowledgements in forthcoming publications and presentations
  • TMT works closely with companies and communities to enact each of their initiatives and programs. I think it would be good to hire a paid cultural liaison as well, to acknowledge the importance of their contributions and cite their collaborations more directly in some cases.
  • How do we address the coming and going astronomers? They cannot require them to do the trainings that TMT employees have to take – maybe it is possible to require new observers to complete the cultural training course at least once every other year.
  1. Are there specific resources or guidelines that are needed to improve the process for planning ahead and working with communities of color?
  • E.g., Additional support/funding for early planning process of projects to include forming productive and mutually beneficial connections with communities, establish a point of contact for interfacing with communities so as not to overwhelm with individual requests from researchers and collaborators
  • Establishing a point of contact that can be cited and paid. – this will require funding.

Keck Observatory and Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO)

Perspective provided by Ariel Graykowski who has experience with the Keck I and II telescopes at Keck, and the WIYN 0.9 m telescope at KPNO.

  1. What worked well in these interactions?
  • All over the summit at KPNO, there are spots dedicated to the Tohono O’odham Nation. They also sell artwork and goods handmade by the  Tohono O’odham Nation in the gift shop.
  • KPNO’s website has a teb dedicated to the  Tohono O’odham Nation where they offer the “Colors of Nature Summer Academy on Kitt Peak” free for students in 5-7th grades: https://www.noao.edu/kpno/tonopps.html
  • Keck employees do observe certain Hawaiian holidays, and it is clear they know a lot about the land. (it is clear that they probably have taken trainings classes, and are also interested themselves in the various sites of the islands)
  1. What did not work well, and how can this be better addressed in future plans?
  • I haven’t noticed similar acknowledgement to native hawaiians on the summit of Maunakea, or Keck headquarters as I saw across Kitt peak. 
  • I did not acknowledge the native Hawaiians, the fact that Maunakea has many sacred sites, or the Tohono O’odham Nation in my papers, and I should have – I will do this in the future. 
  1. Are there ways to improve the outcome of projects already undertaken?
  • Projects I have already undertaken have been published, so going back to add an addendum to acknowledge the indegous people and land may be challenging – but not impossible.
  1. Are there specific resources or guidelines that are needed to improve the process for planning ahead and working with communities of color?
  • Perhaps: the opportunity to volunteer for events like “Colors of Nature Summer Academy on Kitt Peak” when I am granted observing time. 
  • Kitt Peak has brought touring groups into my telescope dome during observations briefly so that I could tell them about the science I am currently conducting. I thought it was fun and it did not interfere with my measurements at all. Perhaps these touring programs can dedicate certain days to the indegenous people of the area, and also bring tour groups in more often. I would love more opportunities to directly interact with those interested in the science going on at the observatory. 

Death Valley & Alaska

Perspective provided by Mike Lawson who has experience conducting fieldwork in this area.

  1. What worked well in these interactions?
  • During permitting with the National Park Service, they reached out to the indigenious people to check that they were ok with where I was working. I was working in an area that they had not traditionally inhabited, and was allowed to do the work. I was instructed to not touch cultural artifacts but photograph them and provide the park with GPS coordinates. 
  1. What did not work well, and how can this be better addressed in future plans?
  • I feel like I did the bare minimum and didn’t really involve the local ingenious persons in the research. I did not include them in my papers (I should have). If it was a bigger project, I would have done more educational outreach. 
  1. Are there ways to improve the outcome of projects already undertaken?
  • I have only published this work in my dissertation, so I can add an acknowledgement in any future articles.
  1. Are there specific resources or guidelines that are needed to improve the process for planning ahead and working with communities of color?
  • A point of contact maybe? Offering a talk/ participating in tribal meetings? Respecting their right to not work on their land. 

Suggested Questionnaire

Communities of Color is a term used to describe ‘non-white’ ethnic communities who share a common cultural identity. In the United States these communities include, but are not limited to, African Americans, Asian Americans, Indigenous Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, Multiracial Americans, and Latino Americans. This term is typically used to emphasize the common experience of historic oppression and systemic racism that these communities have faced.

The purpose of this 10-minute survey is to assess UCLA EPPS’s working academic relationships with Communities of Color, and how they can be improved. To do this, we ask you to consider your own research, and answer the questions here on behalf of yourself and/or your research group. This survey is anonymous, and responses will only be shared with the UCLA EPSS URGE pod members. Any questions in this survey can be skipped or left blank as needed.

  • Email: Why are we sending this our, what we will do with the results, deadline to fill out survey?
  • Edit the list of people who can edit the google form
  • Populate resource list
  • Add resources to URGE website