Animal Behaviour Live has been created by three postdoctoral researchers in animal behaviour, Alexis Buatois, Valentin Lecheval and Natacha Rossi. We are very interested in the different ways to spread out the scientific culture. The unusual situation created by the Covid-19 crisis was the occasion for us to discuss (i) how researchers are dependant on conferences, and (ii) how the usual system of international congresses can exacerbate many disparities within researchers.
As a result, we decided to set a new online platform up, to organise events entirely broadcasted online. We have since then been joined by other researchers from all over the world helping us organising conferences, seminars and round tables.
The high quality research of the participants of our events deserves cutting-edge communication. Our lovely website and social network artefacts are crafted by the design studio Chloé Motard, which provides all illustrated, visual and graphic design material researchers need.
What are we standing for?
Our aim is to provide a sustainable platform to reduce air travel to conferences and maintain this meeting beyond the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, the environmental cost of travels to international conferences cannot be neglected. A meeting of the American Association of Geographers taking place in Seattle in 2011 has generated 16,000 metric tons of global warming pollution, equivalent to the amount generated in a year by 53,500 people living in Haiti (Nevins, 2013, The Professional Geographer). Virtual meetings are worth to be experimented to address this problem.
Beyond the reduction of carbon emissions, we also aim at reducing gender, race, class, and nation inequalities that can be met in regular congresses. Indeed, biases (whether they are structural, implicit or explicit) exclude many people from science. In the US, it has been shown that several racial/ethnic groups, economically disadvantaged individuals, people with disabilities, and women remain underrepresented (Valantine and Collins, 2015, PNAS). Scientific conferences are no exception to this exclusion with women from some minorities being the most affected (Ford et al., 2019, Nature). Presenting at scientific conferences being key to academic career progression, it is therefore essential to carefully take into account these different parameters at our scale during conference organisation in order not to increase the pre-existing disparities. Our events intends to be inclusive and a dispositive to enable all sociological minorities to access the discursive power of our discipline on the international scene. It will also be the opportunity for non-privileged scientists to be involved in such international conferences as those are generally expensive while ours are free of charge.
Putting into practice
To address these complex questions, we put great efforts in designing inclusive formats. The means currently in place for our annual conference encompass:
Parity is de rigueur in presentations: from plenary conferences to talks and posters, based on abstract selection.
The conference will take place in several sessions covering a wide range of time zones to make sure most of the community can participate.
Attempt to make the event visible, wherever possible. A special effort will be made on social networks and communication within the international animal behaviour community, especially by email, in order to reach all continents. Participation in the entire conference is free of charge and relies on technical means accessible through a web browser, on a computer or a smartphone. In countries where these technical means (Youtube, Discord) are forbidden, alternatives are explored to allow their residents to get involved in the conference.
For the selection of talks on the basis of submitted abstracts, fair representation of self-assessed minorities are taken into account as well as fair geographical distribution of speakers, while maintaining sound scientific quality.
To make sure of the effectiveness of these principles in designing an open and inclusive conference, we will produce two surveys regarding the demographics of our participants. The first survey will document abstract submission and selection, the second will document attendance and audience at the conference. All data will be anonymous and stored and processed under the European General Data Protection Regulation. These two surveys will (i) document the efficiency of our designing principles, (ii) will provide material for reflexivity, that is an opportunity to improve diversity and inclusiveness and (iii) be shared publicly for other conference organisers to experiment new formats with us.
All decisions of the Animal Behaviour Live organisation are taken democractically by the organising committee. We are doing our best to design efficient decision-making processes while making all committee members having a voice and being involved in all desired aspects of our activities, according to the needs and possibilities of each.