IDEA at Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Accountability

Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting 2019. Picture/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Editor’s Note: This is an open letter by a group of Lindau Alumni of the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 2019, detailing a number of suggestions to improve the inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility at the Lindau Meetings. We sincerely thank the group for their input.

Some suggestions are already implemented in our Lindau Meetings, and these elements will be communicated more clearly in the future. A number of ideas are already part of the planning for future Lindau Meetings. The committees of Council and Foundation will examine all suggestions for their feasibility and will consider their implementation for Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings starting in 2021.

June 21, 2020

Dear Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Organizers,

During the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 2019, a few young scientist attendees self-organized to discuss diversity and inclusion at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. We have collectively identified several areas for improving inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility at future Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. We believe that incorporating these suggestions will make our amazing community of LiNo participants and alumni even stronger.

Some of our suggestions are urgent and can be enacted immediately. Their application will help ensure that the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings attend to current best practices, and we strongly encourage that these be implemented as soon as possible. Other suggestions will require resources that may take more time to marshal. However, we kindly suggest that the Lindau Foundation, Council, and Secretariat and associated stakeholders implement them as feasible, and on a best-effort basis, over the next few years. 

A further list of guidelines for actions that should be taken to make a conference more inclusive can be found in Section 5.3 of the LGBT+ Inclusivity in Physics: A Best Practice Guide and we welcome their application to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

1. Improving accountability
We strongly encourage increased accountability at the meeting, as soon as possible. We request:

  1. Prepare, share and enforce an official Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Code of Conduct and Anti-Harassment Policy. Provide an avenue for reporting, intervention and redressal. Examples of codes can be found at the European Southern Observatory, North Bay Python Conference, the American Physical Society, the American Astronomical Society, and the Optical Society. Examples for anti-harassment policies and procedures can be found with the American Astronomical Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the UK councils for Research and Innovation (UKRI).

  2. Require participants to sign an online statement at the time of registration stating that they have read the Code of Conduct, that they will abide by it, and that they are aware of the reporting procedures in case of experiencing or witnessing any violation.

  3. Name one or more contact persons whom participants can contact confidentially if they experience or witness behavior prohibited by the Code of Conduct (for examples of how to implement this, see reporting an incident, and conference anti-harassment). Ensure these persons are easily contactable and readily accessible at the meeting.

  4. Empower these contact persons with the ability to take action to remediate issues arising during the meetings (e.g. staff procedure for incident handling). Educate and train these staff members/contact persons in procedures related to reporting, intervention, and conducting inquiries about complaints, as well as in understanding, acknowledging, and minimizing the risk of retaliation.

2. Supporting equity and improving accessibility
We strongly urge:

  1. Provide a mechanism for participants to inform the organizers about any special needs, such as hearing or mobility assistance and special dietary restrictions (beyond vegan/vegetarian), ideally in the form of a suitably-worded free-form text box prior to the meeting.

  2. Communicate any special needs of participants to be addressed during scientific breakfasts and partner dinners with the Foundation partners, and follow up with the participants to ensure these are adequately addressed.

  3. Reconsider the policy of discouraging attendees from bringing their children, as this systematically discriminates against persons for whom alternatives may not exist.

In addition, we suggest seeking out resources to:

  1. Support the attendance of persons with these and other disabilities at the meetings, for instance, by installing hearing induction loops and mobility access ramps. 

  2. Organize free childcare for participants. Recruit specific sponsors, if needed, to support the Foundation in this important mission of supporting young scientists with children.

3. Encouraging diversity and inclusion
We strongly urge:

  1. Allow for the possibility of adding pronouns (e.g. with stickers) to participant name tags.

  2. Ensure that language in supporting documentation is inclusive. For instance, use gender-neutral language in all documents (e.g. “parents” instead of “mothers and fathers”).

We additionally propose the following for consideration:

  1. Organize panel discussions on a range of subjects such as “challenges of being queer in STEM”, “women in science”, or “research ethics”, in addition to career-focused panels.

  2. Allow for visas to extend to the weekend following the meetings, so international visitors may complete their cultural exchange with their host family. Additionally, provide health insurance coverage during this close-out period.

  3. Acquire and provide more fully-funded scholarships for participants from countries without an official sponsor, perhaps by pairing big sponsors with “sister countries”. For example, country X could be the official sister country of developing-country Y to support their young scientists by covering travel costs. This will also serve to seed and foster networks amongst the young scientists from different countries.

4. Increasing visibility
We propose the following for consideration:

  1. Organize and advertise special networking lunch tables, which will connect participants who wish to discuss important contemporary topics. This can facilitate discussions in a casual setting, for example about inclusion and diversity, mental health, non-academic career paths, as well as gather people wanting to discuss the situation of particular underrepresented groups in STEM, such as LGBTQ+, women, people of color, people with disabilities, etc.
  2. Allow participants to propose for and organize such special-interest networking tables, and provide advertising channels and materials (e.g. signage) to improve their chance of success.
  3. Create a platform for people identifying as members or allies of a particular underrepresented group, and wanting to connect with each other. This could be handled, for example, with a protected discussion group on the Lindau Alumni portal that is made accessible and advertised during the registration process.
  4. Provide a means for easy connecting between attendees, for instance by printing a QR code on name badges, which links to the participants’ online profiles.
  5. Add research-interest stickers to the conference badge. The categories can be general, including, for instance, within physics the following: solid state physics, atomic physics, astrophysics, particle physics, biophysics, etc. This can also be addressed during the registration process.
  6. Supplement or replace the printed participant booklet with an electronically searchable, eco-friendly version, ideally accessible online (perhaps through the same system as e-posters). This list should also include a participant’s research interest, so it is easier to search for people in a particular field. Ensure the chosen format is suitable for screen-readers.

  7. To reduce waste, consider providing a refillable water bottle with the registration pack (or bring your own) with accessible refilling stations throughout the venue. Please also indicate in advance if a venue does not allow bringing in water bottles.

These ideas come from countless discussions during the week of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting 2019. The list of contributors includes, but is not limited to:

Maria Żurek, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Tanmoy Laskar, University of Bath

Jana Lasser, Medical University of Vienna & Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Sarah Leslie, Max Planck Institute for Astronomy/ Leiden University

Martin Vögele, Stanford University

Işınsu Baylam, Koc University Surface Science and Technology Center (KUYTAM)

Dimitra Gkogkou, Leibniz Institut für Analytische Wissenschaften

Caroline Arnold, Deutsches Elektronensynchrotron DESY

Sinem M Sertel, Universitätsmedizin Göttingen

László Molnár, Konkoly Observatory, CSFK, Budapest

Fiona Panther, University of Western Australia, Perth

Niamh Kavanagh, University College Cork, Ireland

Tanmoy Laskar

About Tanmoy Laskar

Tanmoy Laskar is one of the authors of the IDEA open letter to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. He is a postdoc in the astrophysics group at the University of Bath. Concerning the Lindau Guidelines he focuses on inclusivity, diversity, equity, accessibility and accountability.

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