In 2016, we introduced a webcast on diversity, equity, and inclusion as a required part of pre-conference preparation for all global meeting attendees. The 1-hour webcast provided OpenCon community members with an introduction to equity, diversity, and inclusion as they apply to the open research & education space. We chose to include multiple speakers, rather than just one presenter, acknowledging that discussions of diversity must be intersectional* in nature. The speakers reflected the diversity of identities and topics covered, across: ability, gender identity, sexuality, race and ethnic background.
*Intersectionality: a framework first described by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, referring to how an individual will have overlapping social identities (gender identity, race, class, sexuality, ability, etc...) that intersect in how they contribute to an individual’s experience of oppression. Definition adapted from Geek Feminism wiki.
Webcast speakers also participated in a panel discussion on Open and Equity during the main conference. The Open & Equity panel was one of four plenary panel discussions, emphasizing that a discussion about diversity, equity and inclusion is as central to the OpenCon community as those about research evaluation, culture change, and participant projects.
This ethos was reiterated during the panel itself, where panelists spoke about how equity was relevant to all discussions that happen at OpenCon. Panelists spoke about the need to de-center Western ways of knowing; the institutional policies that create and maintain systemic disparities for scholars in underrepresented and marginalized groups; the physical and invisible barriers that exist to participating in Open scholarship, and the need to consider language and accessibility in OpenCon’s conference design if we are going to call OpenCon an inclusive, diverse, and global community.
To create space for discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion outside of the panel discussion, there was also an impromptu session for “Open Reactions”—a platform to speak and react candidly to issues around these topics that had come up earlier during the day. If this is something you choose to incorporate into your conference, ensure that this is a facilitated discussion. We encourage you also to be mindful about who you are choosing as a facilitator. This type of session works best when led by someone familiar with equity issues and has previous facilitation experience. The facilitator should be someone who is comfortable asking attendees to step outside their comfort zone, challenge their assumptions and internalized biases, while creating a safer space for folks at the margins.
Letting Participants Shape Your Agenda