Other Group

SEA Change

Parent Organization:

American Association for the Advancement of Science






Shirley Malcom

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Not to be confused with Sea Change Foundation or Sea Change Leadership PAC.

SEA Change, also known as STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Medicine) Equity Achievement Change, is a pressure group which works to reshape science and engineering programs at colleges, universities, and schools to conform to a left-of-center race and gender agenda. In particular, the group claims that the supposed lack of women, non-white ethnic groups, and sexual minorities in these fields is a result of alleged bias in the education system and academic community. To pressure educational institutions to conform to its agenda, the group evaluates them based on left-of-center criteria for appropriate demographic makeup and ideology, which it labels “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” or DEI.

SEA Change is a project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a nonprofit which has a stated goal of advancing innovation in science and technology but has received criticism for conflating left-of-center activism with the promotion of scientific progress. According to AAAS, the project was inspired by a similar initiative in the United Kingdom. 1 2 The UK program, called the Athena Project, was launched in 1999, while SEA Change ran a pilot version of its evaluation project in 2017 and was officially launched in 2018. The group collaborates with the Athena Project, which now calls itself the Athena SWAN Charter, as well as similar organizations in Australia and Canada. 3

AAAS Background

From its founding until the early 20th century, the American Association for the Advancement of Science generally remained apolitical: in 1919, it passed a resolution stating that “scientific men should not discuss matters relating to acute political questions on which public opinion is divided.” 4 In the 1920s, however, activism-minded members of the organization gained greater prominence, with one writing in the AAAS publication Science that members should be more engaged in political discussion in order to advance what he called “the path of progress.” 5 By the 1930s, left-of-center sentiments were mainstream within the organization, with new AAAS president Walter Cannon endorsing the communist societal model of the Soviet Union over that of the United States, which he called “a nation of alienated victims” and a part of “avaricious bourgeois civilization.” 6

AAAS regularly publishes statements on various matters affecting the scientific community, including political matters. In 2022, AAAS published a letter opposing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to limit the federal government’s authority regarding greenhouse gas emissions. Authored by AAAS CEO Sudip Parikh, the letter stated that “The effects of climate change are already and increasingly becoming dangerously clear.” 7 Parikh also published a letter in 2020 criticizing the President Donald Trump administration for withdrawing the U.S. from the World Health Organization (WHO). 8 Trump said he withdrew the U.S. because of how WHO handled the COVID-19 crisis, especially China’s lack of transparency regarding the worldwide pandemic. 9

AAAS publishes the Science family of magazines, which covers a wide breadth of topics and includes news, opinions, and academic journals under its editorial umbrella. 10


As of February 2022, SEA Change had over 20 member institutions across the United States. The University of Iowa, which joined that month, created a team of students, faculty, and staff with the authority to review all of the school’s policies, procedures, and programs in order to determine whether they sufficiently conformed with the SEA Change agenda. 11 In April, Clemson University and the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) also became members, with CalTech president Thomas Rosenbaum calling the group’s agenda “essential” to the university’s future. 12 The same month, Pennsylvania State University named a building after SEA Change director Shirley Malcom, who is an alumnus of the school. 13 In May 2022, the entire University of California (UC) system joined SEA Change as well. 14 The UC system announcement about joining SEA Change included a broader description of its dedication to left-of-center identity principles for hiring faculty, and a $15 million grant from the Mellon Foundation which was given to “diversify humanities and humanities-inflected social science faculty.” 15

Awards are a major part of SEA Change’s efforts to spread its DEI message throughout higher education. They are only available to SEA Change members. As of July 2022, the organization has only given one type of award, its bronze award, with others forthcoming. 16 It has given bronze awards to five higher education institutions which “have completed a thorough self-assessment of their…policies, procedures, and climate,” subsequently assessed their “DEI challenges,” and developed plans “to address those challenges.” 17

Other member benefits include a private “safe-space” community for sharing DEI ideas and strategy, training, and access to SEA Change-developed resources. 18


Shirley Malcom is the director of SEA Change and a senior advisor to the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also a trustee of the California Institute of Technology and a member of the Morgan State University board of regents. She previously sat on the board of the taxpayer-funded National Science Foundation and was a member of the Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology under president Bill Clinton. Malcom received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in zoology from the University of Washington and the University of California, Los Angeles, respectively, as well as a doctorate in ecology from Pennsylvania State University. 19

Beth Ruedi is the director of operations at SEA Change. She previously worked for the Genetics Society of America and touts her work to advance left-of-center race and gender ideological priorities within the organization. Ruedi received a doctorate in behavioral genetics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 20

Michael Feder is SEA Change Institute’s director, and a longtime STEM author and academic. He worked for two years in the Obama administration in technology advisory roles. 21

Financials and Institutional Backing

SEA Change has been endorsed by the Office of Research of Women’s Health at the taxpayer-funded National Institutes of Health. The Carnegie Corporation of New York, which has backed prominent left-of-center organizations such as the Alliance for Justice and the controversial now-defunct outreach group ACORN, gave SEA Change a $300,000 grant in 2021. 22 The Heising-Simons Foundation, led by major Democratic Party donors Mark Heising and Liz Simons, gave SEA Change a $200,000 pilot grant in 2017 and at least $650,000 in continued support grants since then. 23 The taxpayer-funded National Science Foundation approved a grant of nearly $2 million for SEA Change to be disbursed from 2019 to 2023. However, as of fiscal year 2020, the foundation had already exceeded the original grant amount by just under $75,000. 24 Other backers of the project include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Kavli Foundation, the Vilcek Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. 25

All grants to SEA Change go through its parent organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which received a total of just over $114 million in 2020. Approximately $30.8 million of this amount came from contributions and grants, with nearly the entire remainder coming from program service fees. 26 AAAS has received nearly 600 contracts from the U.S. federal government. 27


  1. “Home.” SEA Change. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://seachange.aaas.org/
  2. “SEA Change.” American Association for the Advancement of Science. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://www.aaas.org/programs/sea-change
  3. “History.” SEA Change. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://seachange.aaas.org/about/history
  4. “1919 Meeting of the AAAS – Letters.” Science. January 1920. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://archive.org/stream/science511920mich/science511920mich_djvu.txt
  5. “Science, New Series Volume LI.” Science. January 1920. Accessed May 15, 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=rbY7AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA115&lpg=PA115&dq=science+%E2%80%9Cto+throw+the+light+of+truth+on+the+field+of+political+discussion
  6. Peter J. Kuznick. “Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists as Political Activists in 1930s America.” University of Chicago Press. 1987.
  7. Sudip Parikh, “AAAS Statement on West Virginia v. EPA,” American Association for the Advancement of Science. June 30, 2022. Accessed July 18, 2022. https://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/2022-06/AAAS Statement on EPA v West Virginia_1.pdf?adobe_mc=MCMID%3D05292439839401748324183456802189690287%7CMCORGID%3D242B6472541199F70A4C98A6%2540AdobeOrg%7CTS%3D1658169605
  8. Sudip Parikh, “AAAS Statement on U.S. Withdrawal from the World Health Organization,” American Association for the Advancement of Science. July 9, 2020. Accessed July 18, 2022. https://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/2020-07/AAAS Statement on U.S. Withdrawal from the World Health Organization.pdf?adobe_mc=MCMID%3D05292439839401748324183456802189690287%7CMCORGID%3D242B6472541199F70A4C98A6%2540AdobeOrg%7CTS%3D1658169605
  9. Brianna Ehley, Alice Miranda Ollstein, “Trump announces U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization,” Politico. May 29, 2020. Accessed July 18, 2022.
  10. Science main page. Accessed July 18, 2022.  https://www.science.org/
  11. Charlie Taylor. “UI participation in AAAS SEA Change program provides resources, accountability for DEI growth.” University of Iowa. February 15, 2022. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://diversity.uiowa.edu/news/2022/02/ui-participation-aaas-sea-change-program-provides-resources-accountability-dei-growth
  12. Andrea Korte. “Caltech, Clemson, Iowa Join SEA Change as Charter Members.” American Association for the Advancement of Science. April 8, 2022. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://www.aaas.org/news/caltech-clemson-iowa-join-sea-change-charter-members
  13. Andrea Korte. “Penn State to Name Building for AAAS SEA Change Director Shirley Malcom.” American Association for the Advancement of Science. April 7, 2022. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://www.aaas.org/news/penn-state-name-building-aaas-sea-change-director-shirley-malcom
  14. Andrea Korte. “University of California System Joins AAAS SEA Change to Systematically Advance DEI in STEMM.” American Association for the Advancement of Science. 24 May 2022. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://www.aaas.org/news/university-california-system-joins-aaas-sea-change-systematically-advance-dei-stemm
  15. Dateline Staff, “All of UC joins UC Davis in AAAS SEA Change for Faculty Diversity,” University of California Office of the President,’ May 24, 2022. Accessed July 18, 2022. https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/all-uc-joins-uc-davis-aaas-sea-change-faculty-diversity
  16. SEA Change, “SEA Change Awards.” Accessed July 18, 2022. https://seachange.aaas.org/awards/overview
  17. SEA Change, “SEA Change Awardees, Driving Change.” Accessed July 18, 2022. https://seachange.aaas.org/awards/awardees
  18. [1] SEA Change, “SEA Change Membership.” Accessed July 18, 2022 https://seachange.aaas.org/membership/benefits
  19. “Staff.” SEA Change. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://seachange.aaas.org/about/leadership/staff
  20. “Staff.” SEA Change. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://seachange.aaas.org/about/leadership/staff
  21. “Staff.” SEA Change. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://seachange.aaas.org/about/leadership/staff
  22. “Carnegie Corporation of New York Board Approves 27 Grants Totaling $13,530,000.” Carnegie Corporation of New York. March 25, 2021. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://www.carnegie.org/news/articles/carnegie-corporation-new-york-board-approves-27-grants-totaling-13530000/
  23. “Grants – Sea Change.” Heising-Simons Foundation. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://www.hsfoundation.org/grants/search-our-grants/?keyword=sea+change
  24. “STEM Equity Achievement.” National Science Foundation. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1841687
  25. “Supporters.” SEA Change. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://seachange.aaas.org/about/supporters
  26. “American Association for the Advancement of Science.” ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer. Accessed July 16, 2022. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/530196568
  27. American Association for the Advancement of Science. USA Spending. Accessed July 18, 2022. https://www.usaspending.gov
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