Research project: conference formats

Can we level the playing field at conferences for all delegates, regardless of gender? Can we obtain equal opportunities for everybody attending without putting anyone at disadvantage?

Can we tackle the reasons behind the inequalities of conference outcomes?

In this research project, we’re trying to find out which effects non-standard conference formats can have on scientists’ conference experiences. We’re looking for collaborations with conference organisers, who are interested in trying out avant-garde formats.

We are curious to find out how the playing field of a conference can be levelled (LINK to first NSC website post). Our research project aims at examining scientific conferences as an area in which female scientists’ positions can be improved effectively and efficiently. We are aiming at creating interventions to established conference processes by introducing a modified conference design. We ask: What needs to change so that female scientists’ attendance at scientific conferences, in numbers, in talks given, presentations held, and in the networking outcome, improves? Ideally, measures would not force either gender to (not) do anything, but create a more conducive and open environment for interaction. We focus on leaning in for structural changes of the conference set-ups. In accord with behavioural economics and gender equality expert Iris Bohnet, we are convinced that better design is the way to set impulses for a cultural change towards advanced gender equality. It is “through behavioral design [that] we can move the needle towards creating equal opportunities […] for everyone” (Bohnet, 2016, p. 7). The central idea of our project is that if we are able to improve female scientists’ networking experience at conferences, we might be able to increase their visibility by improving their positioning, reach and exposure at such meetings. We believe that this, in the long run, can become one of many steps towards narrowing the various gender gaps in academia.