Centering inclusivity in the design of online conferences-An OHBM-Open Science perspective

Gigascience. 2021 Aug 20;10(8):giab051. doi: 10.1093/gigascience/giab051.

Abstract

As the global health crisis unfolded, many academic conferences moved online in 2020. This move has been hailed as a positive step towards inclusivity in its attenuation of economic, physical, and legal barriers and effectively enabled many individuals from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented to join and participate. A number of studies have outlined how moving online made it possible to gather a more global community and has increased opportunities for individuals with various constraints, e.g., caregiving responsibilities. Yet, the mere existence of online conferences is no guarantee that everyone can attend and participate meaningfully. In fact, many elements of an online conference are still significant barriers to truly diverse participation: the tools used can be inaccessible for some individuals; the scheduling choices can favour some geographical locations; the set-up of the conference can provide more visibility to well-established researchers and reduce opportunities for early-career researchers. While acknowledging the benefits of an online setting, especially for individuals who have traditionally been underrepresented or excluded, we recognize that fostering social justice requires inclusivity to actively be centered in every aspect of online conference design. Here, we draw from the literature and from our own experiences to identify practices that purposefully encourage a diverse community to attend, participate in, and lead online conferences. Reflecting on how to design more inclusive online events is especially important as multiple scientific organizations have announced that they will continue offering an online version of their event when in-person conferences can resume.

Keywords: collaborative events; diversity; inclusivity; online conferences; open science.