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DSS Best Practices for Conference Organization

Dear Donderian,

Science is missing if it is not for nor by all of us. At the Donders Institute, we strive for a research culture that is more open, inclusive, and more diverse and therefore more inspiring and interesting!

We, the Diversity and Sustainable Science (DSS) Committee, have been trying to find ways to help the Donders (and our scientific communities) to become that diverse academic space. Today we want to bring to your attention one of our latest initiatives: “DSS Best Practices for Conference Organization” spearheaded by Rayyan Tutunji.

There is no lack of courses, conferences and seminars being hosted at the Donders and organized by Donderians. Often we start from the topic, find a sensible structure, look for speakers, send the invites and the show is on. What is becoming evident is that our implicit (and sometimes explicit) biases lie at the heart of all of these steps and without any awareness or effort to work against them, we listen to the same old speakers, science keeps its image of a white man in a lab coat coming from the most prestigious universities. But is this how we get the most inspiring input for our science and our scientists?

One good exercise is to be actively aware of who gets a seat at the table. , i.e., ensuring that your speakers not only represent the “experts” of your field but also they should represent the diversity of that field in terms of gender identity, institutional, geographical, racial, disability status and sexual orientation (this list is not exhaustive). Such diversity is a way to undo the accumulated effect of biases in the ladder of academic institutions, to acknowledge that we are all contributing to scientific development and to inspire our younger colleagues by letting them see role models with whom they can identify. Not to mention that you will be surprised by new views and ideas.

Our role in making science be for everybody is present both as an organizer: is the location accessible and suitable for people with physical or sensory disabilities and difficulties, or neurodiversities? and as a speaker: are you acknowledging work from smaller and underrepresented groups? Are you using gender neutral language when referring to other scientists' contributions? Is your presentation accessible to non-native speakers? When accepting to give your talk, are you encouraging the organizers to promote diversity? Are you willing to do the effort to create a healthier academic environment for everyone?

If you want to learn more about this initiative check the full document here

On behalf of the DSS committee,

Alma and José

DSS Best Practices for Conference Organization (pdf, 129 kB)