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Virtual Scientific Conferences:Benefits and How to Support Underrepresented Students

Authors:

Abstract

Gaps in accessibility force students from historically marginalized backgrounds to navigate academic spaces, such as conferences, with minimal support. However, the large shift to virtual platforms has opened up a path toward inclusivity by offering more flexible involvement options and new opportunities for students to engage with research professionals. We examined virtual spaces, and the benefits associated with them, and recommend actions that result in high-value experiences for underrepresented students.
Virtual Scientific Conferences:Benefits and How to Support Underrepresented Students
Cesar O.Estien1,Eli B. Myron1,Callie Oldfield2,Ajisha Alwin3,and Ecological Society of America Student Section
1Florida State University, 2University of Georgia, 3University of Florida
vGaps in accessibility force students from historically marginalized backgrounds
to navigate academic spaces, such as conferences, with minimal support
vThe large shift to virtual platforms has opened up apath toward inclusivity by
offering more flexible involvement options and new opportunities for students to
engage with research professionals
1. Kelman, H. C. 2006. Interests, relationships, identities: three central issues for individuals and groups in
negotiating their social environment. Annual Review of Psychology 57:126.
2. Kolligian Jr., J.,and R. J. Sternberg. 1991. Perceived fraudulence in young adults: Is there an Imposter
syndrome?Journal of Personality Assessment 56:308326.
Literature Cited
vExamine virtual spaces, and the benefits associated with them, and recommend
actions that result in high-value experiences for underrepresented students
Accessible
By eliminating or reducing travel expenses, virtual conferences remove
this financial barrier for students and early-career professionals and
increase the number of potential attendees who can afford to attend
both from the United States and internationally.
Inclusive
The Animal Behavior Society has addressed that because of the
virtual template this year, they can accept more talks. This means
more research and community members are visible.
Engaging
Virtual conferences allow for those who feel intimidated by aroom of
scientists to ask questions. This stimulates discussions and brings
additional questions to the presentation. Additionally, attendees can
consume the material at their own pace, and engage with
presentations via live Q&Asessions and panels.
Background
Innovative
As apresenter, you now have the ability to articulate yourself in ways
you haventbefore. The virtual medium pushes scientist restructure
their presentations on what is truly important and allows them to
answer questions that are left on posters or talks more thoughtfully.
Navigating academia can be daunting, particularly for
marginalized students. The desire to share research and
connect with colleagues can be overshadowed by
impostor syndrome,a condition characterized by anxiety
and fear of appearing unintelligentto peers2. These fears
that undergraduates and first-time attendees face in these
spaces can be alleviated with microcommunities.
The Animal Behavior Society offers undergraduates and
recent graduates the chance to become a Turner. A
Turner Fellow receives financial support to attend the
conference, a mentor, and partakes in professional and
identity-centered workshops. This program, and the
resulting cohort, further supports students, fostering
belongingnessand encouraging individuals to see
themselves as scientists.
Creating
microcommunities
for undergraduate
students/early-
career researchers
with rule, role, and
value orientation
Diverting money
saved on conference
costs to hire JEDI
(justice, equity,
diversity, and
inclusion)
professionals for
panels and
workshops
Including closed
captions on all
presentations and
hiring American Sign
Language translators
for all major keynote
speakers
Strongly encouraging
all speakers to
upload their talks to
an accessible
platform (e.g.,
YouTube)
Conducting a pre-and
post-conference
surveys to receive
anonymous feedback
in order to improve
the attendee
experience
Future Directions
1. Microcommunities 4. Increase
Accessibility
2. JEDI Initiatives 5. Conduct Surveys
3. Further Inclusivity 4. Further Accessibility
Acknowledgments
Microcommunities
should aim to satisfy
these processes for
fully integrating an
individual into a
community
Rule Orientation:
students are
provided with the
necessary skills to
succeed in science
Role Orientation:
students form and
maintain
relationships, thus
seeing themselves
as scientists
Value Orientation:
students establish a
desire to improve
science and those
that experience it
#1#2#3
We would like to thank Fred Abbott and the SEEDS Program of the Ecological
Society of America. We would like to thank Damian Elias, Jennifer Hamel, and those
who are apart of the ABS diversity committee and supervise the Turner Award.
Objective
Virtual Conference Benefits
Establishing Microcommunities
Purpose Charles H. Turner Award
Article
Full-text available
ABSTRACT Poster sessions are an integral part of conferences because they facilitate networking opportunities and provide a platform for researchers at every career stage to present and get feedback on their work. In Spring 2020, prompted by the rapid transition of the SABER (Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research) Summer 2020 meeting to an online format, we designed and implemented a no-cost and accessible, asynchronous, and synchronous virtual poster session. Here, we outlined our goals for hosting an inclusive virtual poster session (VPS), demonstrated how a backward design approach can facilitate effective VPS, and described our rationale for adopting an asynchronous/synchronous model using the Padlet and Zoom platforms. We shared our lessons learned to facilitate a second VPS at the SABER 2021 meeting and to assist future poster session organizers in designing engaging, inclusive, and accessible poster sessions. Virtual poster sessions have great potential to improve collaborations and science communication experiences at scientific conferences and in undergraduate classrooms.
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