OHBM Diversity and Inclusivity Committee
Every year the OHBM Program Committee takes on the challenging task of creating content for the annual meeting that appeals to the multifaceted, global OHBM community. One of the top priorities for the committee is to ensure diversity of presenters at the meeting. However, it may be unclear how to achieve this goal.
Currently, the submission guidelines for symposia and educational courses state that submissions should provide a “statement on presenter diversity.” We hope to provide a discussion of what the statement of presenter diversity means and how organizers can ensure that a symposium submission meets this requirement. The Diversity and Inclusivity Committee has some ideas that we hope will move this discussion forward and provide concrete guidelines.
What does “diversity of presenters” mean?
Diversity is achieved by including people from a range of different backgrounds. In considering diversity of speakers at the OHBM Annual Meeting, we encourage organizers to consider the categories included in our code of conduct, namely: diversity in age, culture, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, language, national origin, political beliefs, profession, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.
Note that this list is not exhaustive, and that the geographic diversity dimension can include both the current country of residency (where individuals live and work today) as well as a person’s past experiences (where they completed training and their work history). For example, it would make sense that the geographic location where a person has studied or worked for a long period (e.g., several decades) may in some cases be considered to a greater extent than the country where the individual has citizenship by birth. One way to clarify this information is to collect information about the amount of time a potential presenter has stayed or is staying at a given location, or whether the individual is an immigrant.
How can we achieve a balance of speakers?
Concrete suggestions to Symposium/Educational Course organizers
When brainstorming which speakers to invite, one suggestion to increase diversity is to look for speakers beyond one's first-order personal professional network. Increasing the pool of proposed speakers beyond one's usual network will first and foremost increase the quality and breadth of ideas related to the symposium or educational course. Diversity in speakers will add new perspectives, methodologies, and research questions, and it will inevitably result in more innovative scientific content. Finding speakers outside one’s network can be accomplished by contacting affinity groups (see our list of affinity groups) that are organized around specific identities to seek eligible individuals with the relevant expertise on a given topic. This will entail including speakers from underrepresented backgrounds and geographical locations as well as considering gender, ethnicity, and career levels when choosing co-presenters.
Another way to identify potential speakers is through the examination of panels and shorter talks from recent events organized by early career researchers (e.g., Open Science and Brainhack events). Sometimes these types of smaller events bring in speakers who are less “well known” but still provide excellent scientific contributions. Drawing from these types of events can help increase the diversity of speakers by including those from earlier career stages. In addition, instead of defaulting to asking a well known principal investigator to present, consider asking postdocs and other senior scientists working in that same group to participate in your symposium/educational course proposal.
Concrete suggestions to Program Committee
Traditionally, keynotes speakers at OHBM tend to be selected based on high citation records and publications in high-impact journals. Recent studies have demonstrated that current academic record systems use the number of citations to estimate the impact of scientific publications, such as using Google Scholar, which suffer from self-citation bias, sex/gender cross–citation bias, network-based citation, and other biases. To develop unbiased and transparent selection procedures, we suggested the following steps:
Another option is for the OHBM Program Committee to require positionality statements as part of symposia and educational course proposals. Briefly, positionality statements would allow speakers to acknowledge how their identity and background affects their world views, biases, and values. Either including this as an explicit requirement for proposal submission, or making it optional, could go a long way towards enhancing speaker diversity.
The Program Committee could consider limiting submissions from speakers who have had the opportunity to present at the conference recently (e.g., within the last 1–2 years). Another suggestion would be that the Program Committee actively seeks senior scientists from different OHBM chapters to recommend and nominate early or mid-career scientists from their respective chapters.
Concrete suggestions to OHBM Council and Finance Committee
In addition to choosing a balanced group of representative speakers, we suggest that the OHBM Council should actively consider individuals' situations that influence their ability to attend the conference. In order for a diverse group of speakers to be able to attend the annual meeting, we must support them to do so.
To this end, we are making the following recommendations:
In summary, we propose several ways to increase diversity in speakers at the annual OHBM meeting with the goal of improving scientific contributions and broadening our brain mapping horizons. We strongly believe that each and every one of us can drive this change during our proposal submissions, and at a larger scale, by suggesting concrete actions to the OHBM leadership.