Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Texas
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Texas Project

OA 107: Improving institutional diversity in professional society participation through virtual and hybrid conferencing

July 2023 - June 2025


Participating Agencies

  • National Science Foundation

For decades, professional scientific societies and individual scientists have relied on in-person conferences to share cutting edge research and build collaborative research networks: conferences are instrumental for developing individual careers and scientific progress. However, in-person conferences have significant barriers to access and inclusion, often excluding scientists and organizations with less financial resources and individuals for whom long-distance travel is difficult. The shift to virtual conferences during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated these historical barriers, as conferences were attended by more diverse groups of scientists. This research investigates how and whether virtual and hybrid conferences in ecology, environmental science, and allied fields have increased participation by individuals from a diverse set of organizations, including academic organizations like universities and those outside of academia like government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and environmental consulting firms. By focusing on increasing the diversity of organizations represented at conferences, scientific conferences can improve collaboration and knowledge exchange between scientists affiliated with academic organizations and scientists affiliated with organizations beyond academia. This, in turn, can facilitate evidence-based environmental management. The project will also assess whether virtual and hybrid conferences are more inclusive of a diverse set of backgrounds and career stages and assess barriers, attitudes, and preferences related to conference access, attendance, and participation. Lastly, researchers will identify future and alternative virtual and hybrid formats and features likely to best support members from diverse organizations and backgrounds. Short-term outcomes will include guidance for professional societies to develop equitable and inclusive conferences and overcome barriers to access; long-term outcomes will be increased visibility and awareness of a diversity of types of organizations in ecology and conservation communities.