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Jun 18 – 20, 2024
Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
America/Toronto timezone

Cohort Pitch 6 - Promoting Inclusivity in Physics Networking

Jun 20, 2024, 2:45 PM
PI/1-100 - Theatre (Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics)

PI/1-100 - Theatre

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics



Dalila Pirvu (Perimeter Institute) Ghislaine Coulter-de Wit (Heinrich Heine Universität Duesseldorf) Gloria Odak (Centre de Physique Théorique) Jonas Neuser (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg - Department of Physics) Melissa Rodriguez Zarate (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität)


Authors from PSI 2020:
Ghislaine Coulter-de Wit, Jonas Neuser, Gloria Odak, Dalila Pîrvu, Melissa Rodriguez Zarate


Within academia it is widely acknowledged that some of the most prominent physicists encountered challenges developing interpersonal skills. For instance, speculation suggests that Newton and Einstein may have belonged to the autism spectrum. In fact, we do not need to look far to notice that a considerable number of physicists diverge
from neurotypical behavior; a mere conversation among peers often reveals that many of us deviate from conventional cognitive norms. Contemporary understanding recognizes these deviations in cognitive functioning as neurodiver-gence; an umbrella term encompassing conditions such as autism, anxiety, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, as well as less formal - and yet extremely impactful - experiences including impostor syndrome, among others. Increasing diversity benefits both individuals and the field, which should not be limited to race, gender, neurotype or physical ability.

Building a successful academic career can be a greater challenge for those who are neurodivergent, particularly when they also belong to another underrepresented group, further complicating their path. A crucial component in advancing one’s career is the ability to establish professional connections. However, accessibility to networking
events can often be challenging. As an example we consider a typical networking event, such as a cocktail hour. It often takes place in a brightly lit room with high bar tables, offering unlabeled or sparsely labeled food and drinks. Attendees must navigate joining existing groups or forming their own. Furthermore, sensory sensitivities might create
challenges with bright florescent light while clustered bar-height tables neglect those who struggle with prolonged standing, or navigating with a wide mobility aid. Unlabeled food and drink can lead to stress and uncertainty for individuals with allergies, religious requirements, lifestyle preferences, and sensory sensitivities already exacerbated
by eating in a social setting. People struggling with imposter syndrome or communication differences, may struggle creating or joining groups in such a setting, even if they are perfectly capable of having meaningful discussions in other contexts. These struggles are not indicative of an individual’s scientific aptitude but rather their ability to endure social interactions, engage in small talk, and manage activities like eating and drinking in such settings.

Our aim is to explore and suggest improvements to accessibility including adapting existing systems.

Perimeter Institute and the team behind the `Promoting Inclusivity in Physics Networking' project are dedicated to enhancing the PSI 15 Year Reunion experience for all participants. As part of this initiative, we are piloting several new measures and refining existing ones with the goal to create a more inclusive networking environment. We hope to identify effective practices that can be further developed and
implemented in future events.

1.- Participants can now display their preferred level of social engagement and interaction, via physical markers on their lanyards.

2 - Participants can display their preferred pronouns with a sticker.

3.-Participants can pick up squeezy brain ball and earplugs at registration desk

4.-Throughout the conference, private rooms with online conference capabilities have been pre-booked for participants who prefer a quiet environment or smaller group networking. During the "Collaboration" sessions the available rooms are the mezzanine glass office , PSI Time Room, Reflecting Lounge, SkyRoom, and courtyard areas. For the "Industry Networking Session" on Wednesday, the the Reflecting Lounge Room next to the library will be available and the mezzanine glass office is booked for online Zoom participation.

5.- Participants are encouraged to make the most of break times by using the various patios and hammocks scattered across the building grounds, as well as the neighbouring park.

6.- Food inclusivity: detailed menus are available in advance for the breakfast and banquet events; on-display labels for every food item at every meal indicating whether they are vegan, vegetarian, gluten or lactose-free.

7.- For the event we put special attention on noise levels. We sectioned off quieter areas during the networking breakfast, the banquet and the breaks. This is intended to minimize sensory overload. Free earplugs are also available at the registration desk.

Survey link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSevYsGyTK9IPF-YPfOMljkVt_a3DPihGOCXWYDic1NLHD5eYg/viewform

Presentation materials

External references