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Fewer underrepresented minority scientists are invited to give talks

Study of speakers at American Geophysical Union fall meetings shows underrepresented minority scientists spoke at disproportionally low rates

by Andrea Widener
December 5, 2019

Chart showing proportion of underrepresented minority scientists invited and assigned to give talks at AGU fall meetings.
Missing minorities
Scientists from groups underrepresented in the sciences were less likely to get invited or assigned to give talks at American Geophysical Union fall meetings.
Source: Nature 2019, DOI: 10.1038/d41586-019-03688-w
Note: Proportions are the percentages of invited or assigned talks out of the total number of abstracts submitted by people who self-identified as members of the categories indicated. Underrepresented minority groups include African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander scientists. Groups that are not underrepresented include white and Asian American scientists.

Scientists from underrepresented minority groups are already few and far between in many science fields. But a new study shows that they are invited or assigned to give talks at lower rates than their white or Asian American colleagues, a commentary published in the journal Nature shows (2019, DOI: 10.1038/d41586-019-03688-w). Underrepresented minority women were the least likely to get speaking slots.

The study looked at US-based speakers and poster presenters at American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meetings from 2014–17. Almost 39,000 speakers reported their ethnicity and race. Of those, 7.7% were African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, or Pacific Islander.

For AGU meetings, people who would like to present their work submit abstracts for topical sessions. Session organizers can invite talks or select speakers from among submitted abstracts. Underrepresented minority scientists overall were less likely to get invited to give talks. They were also less likely to be assigned to give a talk, relative to the number of abstracts they submitted. Minority women were at a particular disadvantage. That comes despite the fact that underrepresented minority scientists were proportionally more likely to submit abstracts.

The authors “urge more organizations to measure and share the outcomes for scholars from minority groups. With this information and the growing literature on effective interventions, together we can create a more equitable scientific community.”


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