AERA, AAAS, and Key Researchers Call on OMB to Require NSF to Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Measures in Surveys
AERA, AAAS, and Key Researchers Call on OMB to Require NSF to Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Measures in Surveys

October  2020

In a jointly signed letter on October 25, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine; Sudip S. Parikh, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; New York University professor Jonathan B. Freeman; and Laura E. Durso, executive director and chief learning officer of the Whitman-Walker Institute, urged  the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to work with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to include sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) measures  in the 2021 National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG) or, at a minimum, initiate piloting of SOGI questions as part of NSF’s testing of new survey modifications.

“Stakeholders urgently need SOGI data,” stated the letter. “Further delays will incur costs for the U.S. STEM enterprise and lead NSF to fall short of its Congressionally mandated responsibilities.”

The letter responded to a second request for comment on OMB clearance for the 2021 NSCG. (In June, the respondents replied to a first request for comment by urging the inclusion of SOGI questions on the 2021 NSCG.) The more recent letter highlights ongoing efforts at OMB to develop statistical methods for SOGI measures, as well as at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to include SOGI questions on the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study. In addition, the letter echoes recent recommendations in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report Understanding the Well-Being of LGBTQI+ Populations, calling for federal statistical agencies to include SOGI measures in surveys.

The letter also urges the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) to reconsider its approach to its plans to pilot SOGI measures in its surveys.

“NCSES’ proposed approach of expanding its gender item to include non-binary options is inconsistent with recommendations from both federal statistical experts and the independent research community,” said the letter. “The approach NCSES proposes will likely introduce measurement error, adversely affect trends data, and underestimate the transgender population.”

The signatories also expressed concern about the omission of questions related to sexual orientation in the proposed NCSES pilot, despite inclusion of such measures in other federal surveys.

Levine drove home the point of taking up this issue.

“We are collaborating with AAAS and active researchers in the community because it is essential for quality science to be diverse and inclusive,” said Levine. “We know from other data that there is a drop off in participation based on gender identity and sexual orientation, but, without such measures in major statistical data collections related to scientific training and the scientific workforce, scientific fields, policy leaders, and the public are deprived of the knowledge that they need.”

AERA will continue its efforts in this partnership to advocate for these measures in NCSES surveys and for their importance in furthering understanding of LGBTQ populations in STEM education and the STEM workforce.


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