An Open Letter to Planetary Science Conference Organizers

(If you wish to sign this letter, please use this form. Signatures will be updated periodically.)

Update (July 7, 2021): Following up on plans announced here on June 7, LPI announced today an update to the USRA meeting portal to include unrestricted fields for names and personal pronouns, with usage notes. Registered users can log in and update their information here. We wholeheartedly welcome this initiative, and urge all of our institutions and colleagues to continue to work towards dismantling barriers to full participation by all members of our community.

To: The Universities Space Research Association (USRA), the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), and all other institutions and colleagues who serve as conference organizers.

We sign this letter as members of the planetary science community who are deeply concerned by the database management failures that resulted in the use of incorrect names for some colleagues presenting at the recent Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC21), and prevented other colleagues from being able to register for the meeting.

We understand that technical problems of varying magnitude and impact may occur during any virtual conference; hence, this letter is addressed to all of our institutions and colleagues. We acknowledge and appreciate the responsiveness of colleagues at LPI in addressing the issues that were brought to their attention at LPSC21. However, we remain troubled by the irreversible harm done, and seek assurance and action to make sure that these circumstances do not reoccur.

Situations such as that which occurred at LPSC21 disproportionately harm members of our community who are already marginalized. The misnaming or deadnaming of transgender and non-binary community members is singularly harmful, and places some of the most vulnerable members of our community (particularly colleagues who may not be able to safely disclose their gender identity in all spaces) at a risk of workplace retaliation and/or physical violence. This is unacceptable.

Additionally, those of us with names that are “different” are often repeatedly and multiply-marginalized (by virtue of racial, ethnic, gender and/or national identity, and intersections thereof); this cumulative discrimination can be overwhelming. The use of outdated names in a conference setting can also be a professional barrier for members of our community who may have changed their names due to domestic violence, a change in marital status, or other circumstances.

Respect for one’s colleagues is perhaps the most integral part of “doing science”. It is vital that our professional conferences create and maintain an environment in which our whole selves are welcome and respected. We call on all members of our community to affirm these principles. In particular:

We call on USRA and LPI to:

  • Identify and correct the technical issues that led to the use of incorrect names for colleagues at LPSC21 and in some cases prevented colleagues from being able to register for the meeting.

  • Provide clarification to the community regarding the causes of the issues above, affirm that these issues will not recur at future LPI or USRA-hosted meetings, and recognize the barriers that these issues created for members of our planetary science community.

We call on all institutions and colleagues who may serve as conference organizers to:

  • Regularly test and ensure that registration systems accept and respect all registrants’ names, including names that may use spaces, mixed cases, diacritical marks, or international character sets, and without restriction as to length.

  • Provide participants with the option to specify personal pronouns, and respect those specified pronouns in the conference setting.

  • Seek out and incorporate best practices for organizing inclusive professional meetings (whether virtual or in-person), including those discussed in the resources listed below.

  • Expand conference Codes of Conduct to include not only expectations of conference attendees, but also responsibilities of conference organizers.

We call on all members of the planetary science community to:

  • Seek out, reflect on, and implement measures (such as those discussed in the resources listed below) to build and sustain a diverse professional community and an inclusive professional environment.



(If you wish to sign this letter, please use this form. Signatures will be updated periodically.)

Dr. Parvathy Prem, Staff Scientist, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Jacob Richardson, Assistant Research Scientist, University of Maryland

Moses Milazzo, Senior Research Scientist, Other Orb LLC

Serina Diniega, Research scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

James H. Roberts, Staff Scientist, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab

Dr. Alyssa Rhoden, Principal Scientist

Evan Sneed, Post-bacc Reseacher, Penn State

Jeffrey Gillis-Davis, Research Professor of Physics, Washington University

Zoe Learner Ponterio, Research Support, SPIF Manager, Cornell University

Jamie L. Molaro, Research Scientist, Planetary Science Institute

Rachel Maxwell, Graduate Student, University of California - Santa Cruz

Barbara Cohen, staff scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Simon Kattenhorn, Associate Dean of Math & Natural Sciences and Social Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage

Emily Lakdawalla, freelance writer and consultant, The Lakdawalla Group, LLC

Daniella DellaGiustina, Research Scientist, University of Arizona

Szilárd Gyalay, graduate student

C. Adeene Denton, Graduate Student, Purdue University

Ali Bramson, Assistant Professor, Purdue University

Rhiannon Mayne, Curator, TCU Monnig Meteorite Collection

Daniella Scalice, Education and Communications Lead, NASA Astrobiology Program, NASA Ames Research Center

James T Haber, Graduate Student, Purdue University

Divya M. Persaud, Postdoc, JPL

Moshammat Mijjum, Graduate Student, Purdue University

Zahra Khan, Aerospace Engineer

Catheryn Ryan, PhD student, University of Western Ontario

Jennifer Scully, Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Charity Phillips-Lander, Senior Research Scientist, Southwest Research Institute

Corrie Roe, Project Coordinator, American Museum of Natural History

Michael J Poston, Sr Research Scientist

C. Marshall, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Department of Geology

Melissa Cashion, Graduate student, Purdue University

Jennifer Piatek, Professor, Central Connecticut State University

Michaela Leung, Graduate Student, University of California, Riverside

Ingrid J. Daubar, Assistant Professor of Research, Brown University

Julie Rathbun, Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute

Alicia Rutledge, Assistant Research Professor, Northern Arizona University

James Tuttle Keane, Research Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Christian Schaller, Software Engineer, Spacecraft Operations, University of Arizona

Steven A. Hauck, II, Professor, Case Western Reserve University

Chris Herd, Professor, University of Alberta

Katelyn Frizzell, Graduate Student, Rutgers University

Nicolle Zellner, Professor of Physics, Albion College

Dr Eleanor Armstrong, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Delaware

Audrie Fennema, Science Payload Operations Engineer, University of Arizona

Cynthia Phillips, Staff Scientist, JPL

Sarah Horst, Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins University

Kristin M. Block, R&D Engineer, The University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Rachel Klima, Planetary Scientist

Beck E. Strauss, Research Scientist, NIST & NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Timothy Glotch, Professor, Stony Brook University

Melinda Rucks, Post doc, Princeton University

Amanda Stadermann, Graduate Student, University of Arizona

Maria Steinrueck, Graduate Student, University of Arizona

John Noonan, Graduate Student, University of Arizona

Caela Barry, Outreach and Logistics Coordinator, NASA GSFC / ADNET

Amanda Rudolph, Graduate Student, Purdue University

Maya D. Yanez, Graduate Student, University of Southern California

David A. Williams, Research Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University

Alejandro Soto, Senior Research Scientist, Southwest Research Institute

Dr. Rajani Dhingra, Postdoctoral Planetary Scientist, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Mohamed Ramy El-Maarry, Associate Professor

Tina Seeger, Graduate Student, Caltech

Melissa Brucker, Research Scientist, University of Arizona

Ellen Czaplinski, Graduate Student, University of Arkansas

Andrew Rivkin, Staff Scientist, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Kerri Donaldson Hanna, Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida

Corbin Kling, Postdoc, Smithsonian Institution

Carl Schmidt, Research Scientist, Boston University

Shoshanna Cole, Affiliate Research Scientist, Space Science Institute

Erwin Dehouck, Maître de conférences, LGL-TPE, Université Lyon 1

Nancy Chabot, Staff Scientist, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Alan Whittington, Professor, The University of Texas at San Antonio

David T. Blewett, Staff Scientist

Jessica L. Noviello, NASA Postdoctoral Management Program Fellow, Goddard Space Flight Center

Christian J. Tai Udovicic, Graduate Student, Northern Arizona University

Romy Hanna, Research Associate, University of Texas at Austin

Matija Ćuk, Research Scientist, SETI Institute

Lori Feaga, Associate Research Scientist, University of Maryland

Sarah Lamm, Graduate Student, Kansas State University

Beth Johnson, Communication Specialist, Planetary Science Institute

Justin Cowart, Ph.D. Candidate, Stony Brook University

Eloïse Brown, Graduate student (DPhil), University of Oxford

Vicki Hansen, Professor, University of Minnesota

Devanshu Jha, Researcher/Student

Matthew Fillingim, Associate Research Physicist, Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley

Elliot Sefton-Nash, Project Scientist, ESA ESTEC

JA Grier, Senior Scientist, Planetary Science Institute

Melissa Kirven-Brooks, Exobiology Branch, NASA Ames Research Center

Richard Leis, Operations Specialist & Downlink Lead, University of Arizona

Boncho Bonev, Research Associate Professor, American University

David M. Blair, Scientific computing support, Brown University

+1 anonymous signatory