Let’s begin with ABCD

So this blog is mostly about plants, but we wanted to quickly give a shoutout to a new article that hits on another topic that’s incredibly important in the world of science.

A recent commentary from Rosetta Blackman and colleagues describes a new framework for planning conferences. The format uses the letters ABCD to describe four important considerations that everyone should keep in mind when planning their next scientific meeting.

The letters ABCD are criteria for selecting speakers, and stand for All continents, Balanced gender, Carbon emission reduction, and Diverse backgrounds. Together these four factors highlight some of the biggest hurdles that we still face in regards to conference inequality.

Although not specifically mentioned in the piece, following this framework can also help address several other issues that remain present in science. For example, the suggestions for reducing carbon emission reduction, which largely involve making online access to the meeting possible, will also increase access for those who may not be able to fly or spend time in large crowds for various physical, mental or care-taking related reasons.

Blackman and colleague’s essay focuses on conference organisation, and primarily on the speakers themselves. However, a further aim for the science community should be to implement ABCD for the entire cohort of conference attendees – ensuring that one of the most important formats for sharing novel scientific works is accessible to all.

Ultimately, science is better the more diversity and balance we’ve got.

Anyway, we strongly encourage you to go and read the original open access piece over here, it’s only a couple of hundred words:

A meeting framework for inclusive and sustainable science (2020). Rosetta C. Blackman, Andreas Bruder, Francis J. Burdon, Peter Convey, W. Chris Funk, Sonja C. Jähnig, Mary Alphonce Kishe, Marcelo S. Moretti, Vianny Natugonza, Jan Pawlowski, Rachel Stubbington, Xiaowei Zhang, Ole Seehausen and Florian Altermatt. Nature Ecology and Environment.

1 thought on “Let’s begin with ABCD”

  1. A – is not bad, though you might have some problems with Antarctica; and if Australia is only virtual because of C – more of a problem
    B – many disciplines require affirmative action to get the critical mass needed to achieve balance. And numbers are not enough – previous research shows (and this confirms https://magazine.byu.edu/article/when-women-dont-speak/?fbclid=IwAR0KzvSbUiCZVBu-EWvotDToH6WzsYyBMwS-PyLNevqIYhZCVhbH3-oEUZ0 ) that it’s about having a gender-balanced voice – harder to achieve as it needs the current conference/meetings/research dynamics to be drastically changed
    C – Hmmm well, there is a carbon load to be anywhere else in Australia, much less overseas (though the current global situations shows there is some value in being isolated :-)). I would attend peak-body meetings and conferences not really for the papers (I learnt to read many years ago), but for the F2F interaction that happens at such events, with the presenters, other participants etc. Such networking, across a coffee table, or lunch or going from presentation to presentation, has led to much (research) collaboration that would possibly not have occurred in a virtual world – where the focus is more on the ‘business at hand’ (the anecdotal evidence suggests virtual meetings are less time-consuming, more focussed on the agenda etc) not so good for the networking aspect
    D – is this also an area for affirmative action? One of the problems I see in my discipline is the lack of respect for the work/research of other disciplines. Researchers would rather re-invent the wheel than acknowledge the problem (or an isomorphic one) has already been solved, albeit in another area or discipline. I would expect this to be true in science also.

    So – yes, a lofty ideal, but one that should acknowledge, not just the issues involved in its achievement, but the tremendous amount of work that has gone before in attempts to address some of these same issues.

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