Thursday, October 06, 2016

The White Men's Microbiome Congress #YAMMM #Manel #Boycott

So I got this email this morning inviting me to attend a conference: the Second Annual Human Microbiome Congress in San Diego. (also called the North American Microbiome Congress).

And it struck me that all the featured speakers were men.

 Great.  So I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, hoping that maybe if I looked at the rest of the speakers it would be better.

So I had to register on some web site to download the full agenda for the meeting.  And there were the featured speakers, rippling with diversity

So then I went to scroll through the document looking for the other speakers.

OMFG - what a joke.

27 speakers featured.  25 of them male.  That comes to a whopping 93% male lineup.  In a field where there are a massive number of well known, well regarded female researchers.  What a f$&(#()@ joke.  This meeting should be boycotted.  I am going to write to all the speakers I know and ask them to cancel participating.

Update 10/6 1 PM

Got an email from a meeting representative asking me what I thought about the program.  I guess I got this because of my signing up to get the program.

And I wrote back

I guess we will see where this goes.

Update 10/6 1:10 PM

I also have begin writing to people I know who are speaking at the meeting.

I am hoping many of them cancel participating.  I will update when I get more answers but so far the two people who have responded have now withdrawn from the meeting.

UPDATE 10/11

The meeting organizers have responded and appear committed to improving / fixing their diversity issue.  See comments here and also the meeting web site.

That's the good news.

Now the bad news.  A commenter pointed me to the same Group's European Microbiome Congress.  It is a bit better than the US one but not much.

I think this group needs to make a broader statement about diversity than just focusing on one meeting.

For other posts on STEM Diversity see here.


  1. Don't you have friends in social sciences at UC Davis who can find out why? Perhaps you can ask them to investigate? They may even get a paper out of it if they discover something evil. A pity a null hypothesis finding leads to no publication but that's life in academia for you! I imagine a host of reasons for this state - none involving what I'd call 'sexism'. I've attended conferences, with no signs of sexism, where all the important speakers were men too. That, of course, in a male dominated industry. I have no idea what proportion of microbiome research are female. You did not tell us.

    1. The meeting organizers agree with my assessment that this is a biased line up. They are working to improve it. I think that is good enough for me in this case.

      But yes, studying why conferences end up with skewed lineups is interesting and I have connected with many people who are studying this issue. So thanks for that suggestion it is a great idea.

      As for a null hypothesis finding, actually I am also working on efforts to publish more negative results so that we do not get a biased sample of science from only publishing positive results. So thanks for pointing that out here. It is an important issue.

  2. The process of choosing a speaker faculty has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our choices should have been more diverse. I sincerely apologize to those who are offended by the decisions we have made.
    We recognize that it is our responsibility to help ensure that the speaker faculty reflect the diversity and culture of the field and science as a whole. In this instance we failed to live up to our own standards of sensitivity and diversity, for which we sincerely apologize. Kisaco Research is deeply committed to producing events that represent the diversity of the scientific fields we work with. We are embarrassed that this has been previously overlooked and are currently working to make this, and all other programmes, ones that the top scientists are proud to be a part of.
    Stephanie Jaczniakowska-McGirr
    Conference Director
    Kisaco Research

    1. thanks for this - I hope that you are able to achieve this

  3. The same is true for the European Microbiome Congress 2016 -

  4. Well interesting that I just saw this thread. I was just contacted to come give a talk at this conference. So it appears they really are trying to improve their gender ratio

  5. I'm guessing that this field, like many in science, is currently white male dominated at the higher levels. What in your opinion would the "ideal" speaker composition be for a conference like this? Should it be representative of the field, or the planet as a whole, or something different? Should we try to account for equal representation of other individual characteristics besides gender and ethnicity (or in this case, your estimation of gender and white/non-whiteness, which may or may not be accurate)?


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