In 2017, NaturalScience.Careers launched its first research project — the conference study project. We set out to remodel the standard science conference event by adding an interactive format and herewith extending opportunities conferences hold for scientists by providing them with improved networking experiences. With the introduction of small round-table discussion groups we aim to make conferences more inclusive events for everybody.
For over a year now our study, coordinated by Peter Kronenberg, has become a valuable platform for supporting and connecting with multiple groups from academia and industry, all interested in creating better conference events.
Many of these collaborations began when conference organisers contacted us about how they could for example de-bias the selection processes for their speaker selection processes or wanted to create particularly family-friendly environments. We collaborated to develop inclusive conference environments and sensitise each other to the various needs of conference participants and organisers. The feedback from participants and conference organising teams created indispensable networks which enabled us to refine our perspectives on the study project’s initial ideas and the set-up of our research approach.
We were glad to be able to share preliminary results at two meetings: the GenderingMINTdigital collaborative research project in Freiburg and the I, Scientist 2018 conference. These were wonderful opportunities for getting feedback from people invested in current discussions on science career planning, gender and networking.
Naturally, we couldn’t find the “one-size-fits-all” answer to all the challenges science conference organisers face. Challenges remain diverse and often very specific to the conference context, size and research field. Nevertheless, the “new” conference format — the round-table discussion groups — received positive feedback, especially from the younger participants. We continue our work to find out more about how we can improve visibility and the networking experience of (female) scientists.
One highlight early next year will be revisiting an international conference which we attended this year already. We worked closely with the organising team, enabling multiple round-table discussion group sessions (see preliminary report). In 2019 the same conference, similar in size and attendants’ demographics, will be held without the round-table format. This will enable us to make a direct comparison to the very same conference setting with the round-tables.
Got questions or comments? Don’t hesitate to contact Peter Kronenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org). Currently, our aim is to get in touch with social/ gender/ communication scientists, who want to work with us to take this research to the next stage.