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Ecological conferences provide a unique opportunity for scientists in the field of ecology to develop meaningful connections and exchange research in a rapid, multi-day, in-person format. For students and early-career researchers, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, in-person conferences are challenging to attend due to the burdens on finances and time. However, as COVID-19 continues to restrict scientific societies' abilities to host large, in-person conferences, virtual conferences have increased in prevalence. For students and early-career researchers, virtual conferences present a multitude of benefits, including reduced attendance costs, increased accessibility to a wider range of conference resources, and reduced levels of anxiety. These factors make virtual conferences more accessible to those historically excluded from science. Further, microcommunities, which we define as a small network of individuals in the same career stage, can provide additional support for students via interacting closely with peers of the same identity, constructing workshops, and fostering belongingness in STEM. In this paper, we discuss the benefits associated with virtual conferences (focusing on students of underrepresented backgrounds), and we suggest methods to continue increasing inclusivity in STEM and scientific conferences as the world continues to adapt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Estien, C. O., Myron, E. B., Oldfield, C. A., & Alwin, A. (2021). Virtual Scientific Conferences: Benefits and How to Support Underrepresented Students. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, 102(2). https://doi.org/10.1002/bes2.1859