ASCB employs initiatives to further increase meeting speaker diversity

To increase the diversity of speakers presenting at our annual meetings, ASCB has undertaken numerous specific and measurable efforts. The impact of these efforts will be evaluated year over year with the goal of having a slate of speakers that better represent the diversity of our membership and the demographics of our nation. These specific efforts are being employed now for Cell Bio Virtual 2021 and going forward.

These initiatives include:

  • Blind scoring review of all abstracts for minisymposium talks. Top-scoring abstracts and accompanying author demographic information are sent to minisymposium co-chairs to form sessions.
  • Anyone who self-identifies as an underrepresented minority (URM; as defined by the National Institutes of Health) who scores above the median score will be considered for a talk.
  • Organizers of our popular Special Interest Subgroups will be provided with demographic information of presenting authors listed on the abstract to help them create more diverse sessions.
  • Program committee track co-chairs can invite additional URMs to serve as a minisymposium co-chair to ensure more diversity.

In addition, to increase speaker diversity at the 2022 annual meeting, members of the Program Committee will be paired with what we are calling “Inclusion Buddies”—members who are active in diversity, equity, and inclusion training and research—during the 2021 planning process. Inclusion Buddies will also lead networking roundtables at the 2021 meeting to discuss how diversity and inclusion can lead to excellence in science.

“Increasing the diversity of our speakers and organizers is a priority of the Meetings Department,” said Alison Harris, director of meetings for ASCB. “We are implementing these procedures in the hopes that we will be successful in increasing diversity and attracting a more diverse audience to our meeting. We are collecting data so that we can measure our success. We hope we receive more organizer applications and more abstracts so we have a diverse pool to select from and can ensure diversity throughout our entire meeting program.”

To learn more about ASCB’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, visit

About the Author:


Mary Spiro is ASCB's Science Writer and Social Media Manager.