Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Conference scheduling undermines diversity efforts

Citation

Burnett, Nicholas et al. (2022), Conference scheduling undermines diversity efforts, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.25338/B8C92R

Abstract

Scientific conferences incorporate diversity-focused events into their programming to increase their diversity and inclusivity and to improve the conference experience for scientists from underrepresented groups (URGs). While simply adding diversity-focused events to conferences is positive, maximizing their impact requires that conferences organize
and schedule these events to minimize well-acknowledged, problematic patterns such as the minority tax. To our knowledge, the programming of diversity-focused events at conferences has not been systematically reviewed to identify the extent of these shortcomings and how they can be addressed. This dataset describes temporal trends in the types of diversity-focused events held at biology conferences, the targeted audiences of those events, and scheduling conflicts that occur with each event.

Methods

Time-series: We gathered publicly available conference programs for the selected biology conferences (Table 1) for the years 2010 through 2019. Not all conferences had programs available for all years, particularly as time from the present increased, thus sample sizes varied across the time series from 17 to 28. Programs were searched for diversity-focused events by both reading through the entire program and conducting keyword searches. The following keywords were used: diversity, gender, female, woman, women, black, race, ethnic*, minorit*, inclusiv*, LGBT*, where asterisks indicate wild-card search terms. For each program, we first scored (yes/no) on whether there were any diversity-focused events. We then scored whether each event was “women-focused” - where the event was specific to women; “ethnic/racial minority groups-focused” – where the event was specific to any URG based on ethnicity and/or race; and/or “LGBTQ+-focused” - where the event was specific to any part of the LGBTQ+ community. Using these scores, we calculated for each calendar year the percent of conferences with (1) any kind of diversity-focused event, (2) women-focused events, (3) ethnic/racial minorities-focused events, and (4) LGBTQ+-focused events.

Table 1. Biology conferences were acquired from a list of societies affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (https://www.aaas.org/group/60/list-aaas-affiliates). We included a conference if its primary focus was on the biological sciences, regardless of whether the conference was hosted by an academic, professional, or not-for-profit organization. Recent publicly available conference programs were used to examine how conferences incorporated diversity-focused events into their schedules.

Society/Conference

Year analyzed

Society/Conference

Year analyzed

American Dairy Science Association

2018

Ecological Society of America

2019

American Ornithological Society

2018

Entomological Society of America

2018

American Physiological Society

2018

International Biometrics Society - Eastern North America

2018

American Phytopathological Society

2018

Microscopy Society of America

2018

American Society for Horticultural Science

2018

Mycological Society of America

2017

American Society for Microbiology

2019

Phycological Society of America

2019

American Society of Agronomy

2018

Poultry Science Association

2018

American Society of Mammalogists

2018

Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology

2018

American Society of Plant Biologists

2019

Society for Neuroscience

2018

Animal Behavior Society

2019

Society for the Study of Evolution

2018

Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography - Ocean Sciences Meeting

2018

Society of American Foresters

2019

Association of Southeastern Biologists

2018

Society of Toxicology

2018

Behavior Genetics Association

2018

The Wildlife Society

2018

Biophysical Society

2018

Weed Science Society of America

2018

Botanical Society of America

2018

 

 

Survey of event-scheduling and targeted audiences: Using one recent program from each conference (years 2017 through 2019), we searched for diversity-focused events by both reading through the entire program and conducting keyword searches. The keywords used are listed above in the Time Series section. From these searches, we found 87 diversity-focused events from 21 out of the 29 conferences.

Target audience: For each conference, we used the title and any other description of the event to classify the targeted audience as either an underrepresented group (URG) or the broader conference community. For example, events with titles such as “Inclusive Teaching Workshop” were classified as broadly targeted, whereas events with titles such as “Minority Social” were classified as URG-targeted. However, if any event contained the explicit statement that “all are welcome” (or similar), the event was classified as targeted at the broader conference community.

Event format: We also used the titles and other event descriptions to classify the formats of events. Events were classified as socials, workshops, symposia, plenary lectures, forums and town halls, orientations, or poster sessions. The most common events were socials, workshops, and symposia (e.g., “LGBTQ+ Networking Event and Social”, “Workshop for Creating an Inclusive Research Environment”, and “Symposium Honoring the Roles of Women in Microbiology”, respectively).

Breaks or scientific sessions: We used the conference schedule to identify whether each diversity-focused event occurred during a scheduled break versus the main scientific sessions. We defined a break as a period that was either explicitly labeled as a break (e.g., lunch, dinner) or occurred outside the daily start or end of conference-wide scientific events, which included workshops, plenary lectures, poster sessions, and contributed oral presentations.

Number of conflicting events: We used the conference schedule to count the number of events that overlapped with each diversity-focused event for more than 15 minutes. Events were only counted as separate events if they occurred in separate rooms. “Business” events and other closed, invitation-only events were not included in this calculation.

Overlap for an average conference event: Because the baseline number of overlapping events can vary with the size of a conference, we conducted a randomized survey to calculate how many events overlapped with an “average” event at a conference. For each day of a conference, we used a random number generator to identify a single hour with conference activity and counted the number of overlapping events within the first 15 minutes of that hour. The number of events conflicting with an average event was calculated as the total number of overlapping events minus 1. This number was averaged across the different days for each conference. To validate our randomized survey, we also contacted the organizers of each conference to request attendance numbers for the surveyed years - 15 conferences provided this information. Conflict with an average event was strongly correlated with the size of the conference, thus, we concluded that our method of random surveys was a reliable method for quantifying how busy a conference was.

Usage Notes

Conference size ("number of attendees") data were gathered directly from the conference organizers or from published values (e.g., the conference's website). There are some missing values when these data could not be collected.