Children and infants must be welcome at scientific conferences, say scientist-parents

Poor provision for young children and babies risks excluding scientists who cannot afford childcare.

Conference organizers must make their events more welcoming and accessible to parents of young children, say 46 scientist-parents. Rebecca Calisi, a behavioural neuroscientist at the University of California, Davis, and her colleagues offer a blueprint for improving attendees’ experience (R. M. Calisi et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA; 2018). By not accommodating children, the authors say, conferences can unintentionally create barriers that exclude large numbers of scientists — especially mothers at an early stage of their career who might not be able to afford childcare. “One part of promoting diversity is supporting women with children,” Calisi says. Rules about children seem to change from conference to conference and even from hour to hour, says Calisi, who notes that researchers with babies were barred from a poster session at a large conference last November, even though the official policy permitted children in the exhibition area. A practical, comfortable space for breastfeeding or pumping breast milk is an important provision, Calisi says. The Society for Neuroscience, for one, aims to become more inclusive. “The society is exploring ways to enhance the spaces for nursing mothers,” says spokesperson Kara Flynn.

Nature 555, 551 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-03307-0
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the daily Nature Briefing email newsletter

Stay up to date with what matters in science and why, handpicked from Nature and other publications worldwide.

Sign Up