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[ RESEARCH COMMUNITY ] June 30, 2022

Why genderqueer attendance jumped 700% when conferences went virtual

Discover how virtual and hybrid conferences are giving LGBTQ+ scientists from across the world more opportunities to connect and collaborate.

For LGBTQ+ scientists, or for researchers who are still finding their identity, the world can be a scary place. Many feel unsupported, unrepresented, and made invisible by their societies, institutions, and organizations. But even in the face of systematic exclusion, LGBTQ+ people within the academic community still need to access the same tools to advance their careers, including their annual academic conference. In a world where violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community poses a real risk, it’s no surprise online academic conferences have helped to increase LGBTQ+ representation, with genderqueer scientist attendance jumping 700%

In honor of Pride Month 2022, we’re doing a deep dive into how digital spaces are changing the way we connect and empowering LGBTQ+ scientists across the world.


Greater Global Reach

It’s no secret that virtual and hybrid events allow societies and organizations to reach wider audiences than their physical counterparts. Previously, conferences were exclusive events that restricted access to valuable scientific discussions based on budget needs, travel restrictions, and more. Shifting from this traditional model has opened up the academic conference to accommodate communities including LGBTQ+ scientists around the globe, especially those living in locations where in-person academic conferences can be scarce or countries like Brazil where being safe in the real world may mean having to mask your identity. For scientists who require additional assistance, virtual conferences also ease worries surrounding encountering a venue without step-free access, prayer rooms, or sign language interpreters. Online collaboration breaks these accessibility barriers and gives members of the LBGTQ+ community from different cultures and creeds the power to connect, and share their work before a global audience.


Digital Content Is Evergreen

One of the most exciting aspects of virtual and hybrid events is their ability to digitize research, with platforms like Morressier offering organizations the ability to host their members’ early-stage findings long after the conference is over. This way, offline physical conference posters become a thing of the past and digital content becomes evergreen, allowing researchers to have permanent access to their work. This is particularly important for transgender and non-binary scientists, who can return to their research and request pronoun or name changes to ensure that they are always credited accordingly. LGBTQ+ researchers can also give their work a new life on social media by sharing their findings under inclusive hashtags such as #LGBTInSTEM or #LGBTscience to promote their identity and work at once and support diversity in STEM.


New Levels of Networking

In contrast to the crowded conference halls and poster galleries of in-person academic events, virtual and hybrid conferences can offer increased networking opportunities for LGBTQ+ researchers. Our networking tools allow attendees to connect one-to-one or in groups of up to 50 people, helping to facilitate an open dialogue around conference sessions and presentations. Conference organizers can choose how to arrange these networking groups and who to bring together for each session. For instance, organizers can put together networking sessions for Black, queer scientists or a session that connects expert LGBTQ+ scientists with early-career researchers within the same field. These digital tools encourage societies and conferences to be more proactive in bringing their LGBTQ+ members together, creating much-needed mentorship opportunities for LGBTQ+ people in science. 

As Nature captured in a 2020 article, Sean Vidal Edgerton (he) a gay, queer virologist and scientific illustrator at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco created a community organization to support LGBTQ+ voices in STEM. Edgerton realized how vital his organization was when he saw how many mentorship relationships it established, saying: “We suddenly had all these role models, that we didn’t even know we needed, who say, “Yes, you can do that — and succeed in it.” For many LGBTQ+ researchers, a conference is the first place where they may meet someone who identifies similarly to them in their academic field. The diversifying potential of digital networking can ensure that these interactions take place and are comfortable, enriching experiences.


Virtual conferences don’t offer a one size fits all solution for all the issues that members of the LGBTQ+ community face in the academic world. No matter what kind of event you are hosting, it’s important that conference organizers enforce codes of conduct to create and sustain an environment that is welcoming to all.

Bird with open wings on blue background. Message to use conference to improve research impat.