If you want to go to a #manel or a #YAMMM check out Cold Spring Harbor Asia meetings – where men get to speak about stuff

I just got an email about this meeting: CSH Asia 2016 Conference on Microbial Communities in the Environment: Emerging Technologies and New Frontiers:

So the first thing I did was to look at the gender ratio of speakers. I dug into each person listed here as much as a I could and attempted to infer what their gender is.  I realize this is fraught with problems and have written about this previously.  So as much as possible I looked for what pronouns were used to describe these people before infer their possible gender.  I was unable to get any clear gendered pronouns for one person but the others I think I got enough evidence to make a hypothesis.  I colored those I inferred to be male in yellow and those I inferred to be female in green. 


  • Dusko Ehrlich, INRA, France
  • Jack Gilbert, University of Chicago, USA
  • Nan Qin, Zhejiang University, China
  • Ting Zhu, Tsinghua University, China

Keynote Speakers:

  • Dusko Ehrlich, INRA, France
  • Jack Gilbert, University of Chicago, USA

Invited Speakers:

  • Christopher Carr , Massachusetts Institute of Technology , USA 
  • Yehuda Cohen , Nanyang Technological University , SINGAPORE 
  • Alana Firl , University of California, Davis , USA
  • Andrew Holmes , University of Sydney , AUSTRALIA 
  • George Kowalchuk , Utrecht University , NETHERLANDS 
  • Shuangjiang Liu , Institute of Microbiology, CAS , CHINA
  • Nan Qin , Zhejiang University , CHINA
  • Jacques Ravel , University of Maryland , USA 
  • Peter Turnbaugh , University of California, San Francisco , USA 
  • George Weinstock , Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine , USA 
  • Paul Wilmes , University of Luxembourg , LUXEMBOURG 
  • Gary Wu , University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine , USA 
  • Ruifu Yang, Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, CHINA
  • Yunsheng Yang , Chinese PLA General Hospital , CHINA
  • Jun Yu , The Chinese University of Hong Kong , CHINA
  • Yu-Zhong Zhang , Shandong University , CHINA 
  • Liping Zhao, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, CHINA
  • Jizhong Zhou , University of Oklahoma, USA 
  • Ting Zhu , Tsinghua University , CHINA 
Thus of the speakers (keynotes and invited) I infer a ratio of 18 men to 2 women (and one unknown).  So that is 10% women.  Not remotely representative of the gender in the general area of microbial communities.  
And sadly this is not the first time I have seen such skewed ratios in meetings from Cold Spring Harbor.  See for example: Yet another mostly male meeting (YAMMM) from Cold Spring Harbor and 
I note – this whole thing saddens me even more because one of the invited female speakers is Alana Firl, who is a post doc at UC Davis jointly working in my lab and Sundar’s lab.  She is completely awesome and brilliant.  But this meeting?  Well, it is a manel (a panel of mostly men).  A YAMMM (yet another mostly male meeting).  And a disappointment.  
So I decided to see if maybe it was just this meeting in the CSHL Asia series and if others were all OK.  So I went to their list of past meetings and looked at just the keynote speakers. 
Precision Cancer Biology and Medicine: 3 keynotes.  All male. 
Francis Crick Symposium: Advances in Neuroscience. 2 keynotes. One male. One female. 
Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy. 2 keynotes. Both male. 
And I went to their list of future meetings and looked at a few (in fields I knew a bit about)
Frontiers in Single Cell Genomics: three keynotes – all male
Telomere and Telomerase: one keynote – male 
Synthetic Biology: one keynote – male
DNA Metabolism, Genomic Stability and Diseases: two keynotes – one male and one female
So in these meetings it is 29:3 male to female for the keynote talks.  Less than 10% female. Great.  CSH Asia meetings.  Where men get to speak about all the stuff they know.

#YAMMM Alert: NGS Data Analysis & Informatics (Yet Another Mostly Male Meeting)

Just got this email:

Dear Jonathan, 

I hope this email finds you well. I came across your profile while doing some research on the NGS Data Analysis field and I would like to invite you and your team to the “NGS Data Analysis and Informatics Conference, 2016” which will be held on the 18th and 19th of February in San Diego, USA which I hope would be of your interest. I am glad to inform one of the conference sponsors (Illumina, Seven Bridges Genomics, and Molecular Health) has helped arrange a complimentary VIP pass for you. We have limited passes which are being offered for you and some other experts in US. 

We are holding these sponsored pass until the end of this week or till these passes are taken, whichever is the earliest. Request you to kindly confirm your participation at the earliest by replying to this email. Attached is the VIP pass.
Our conference link- http://www.mnmconferences.com/ngs-data-analysis-informatics-congress-usa.html 

I would be grateful if you can share the information with your colleagues if you are not the right person to contact. Let me know if you need any further information. 

Kind Regards, Mahvish Anwar Delegate Executive- Markets and Markets Conferences

So, I checked out the meeting and the gender ratio of speakers.  Not good:

4 and 16 were counted at NGS Data Analysis #NGS. Learn more at GenderAvenger Tally!function(d,s,id){var e,f=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http’:’http’;if(!d.getElementById(id)){e=d.createElement(s);e.id=id; e.src=p + “://app.genderavenger.com/js/lib/embed.js”;f.parentNode.insertBefore(e,f);}}(document,”script”,”genderavenger-embed”);

No thanks, not interested in attending, even for free, a YAMMM (Yet Another Mostly Male Meeting).

BigDat 2016 where men (and only men) will teach you about big data #YAOMM

Just got an email invitation to the following
BigDat 2016
Bilbao, Spain
February 812, 2016
Organized by:
DeustoTech, University of Deusto
Rovira i VirgiliUniversity
I confess, I was intrigued enough to look because it was in Bilbao, and, well, my kids are completely obsessed with soccer and we are thinking of a trip to Barcelona, so why not a trip to Bilbao too.  And then, well, I got sick to my stomach.  I looked at the list of speakers and instructors and did a bunch of Googling to make inferences about their gender.  And, well, everyone associated with the School appears to be male.  That is 24 or 24 slots (4 keynote speaker slots and 20 professor slots.  See below for the rundown.  People I identified as male are highlighted in yellow. Sad and disappointing.  Needless to say I will not be going.

Keynote Speakers

  1. Nektarios Benekos (European Organization for Nuclear Research)
  2. Chih-Jen Lin (National Taiwan University)
  3. Jeffrey Ullman (Stanford University)
  4. Alexandre Vaniachine (Argonne National Laboratory)
Professors and Courses

  1. Nektarios Benekos (European Organization for Nuclear Research)
  2. Hendrik Blockeel (KU Leuven)
  3. Edward Y. Chang (HTC Health, Taipei)
  4. Nello Cristianini (University of Bristol)
  5. Ernesto Damiani (University of Milan)
  6. Francisco Herrera (University of Granada),
  7. Chih-Jen Lin (National Taiwan University),
  8. George Karypis (University of Minnesota)
  9. Geoff McLachlan (University of Queensland)
  10. Wladek Minor (University of Virginia),
  11. Raymond Ng (University of British Columbia)
  12. Sankar K. Pal (Indian Statistical Institute)
  13. Erhard Rahm (University of Leipzig)
  14. Hanan Samet (University of Maryland)
  15. Jaideep Srivastava (Qatar ComputingResearch Institute)
  16. Jeffrey Ullman (Stanford University)
  17. Alexandre Vaniachine (Argonne National Laboratory)
  18. Xiaowei Xu (University of Arkansas, Little Rock)
  19. Fuli Yu (Baylor College of Medicine)
  20. Mohammed J. Zaki (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Kudos to California Academy of Sciences for Responding (Well) to Gender Bias Issue at Meeting They Are Hosting

Just a quick post of a Storify relating to a meeting at the Calacademy:

Cold Spring Harbor presents the men’s only view on the evolution of sequencing

On June 5 I posted a guest blog post by an anonymous person writing about the Programming for Biology workshop at Cold Spring Harbor Labs: Guest post on Yet Another Mostly Male Meeting (YAMMM) – Programming for Biology 

And this post generated some responses including yesterday a series of responses from whomever is behind the Cold Spring Harbor Meetings Twitter account.






Sounds great.  And I retweeted all of these.

And then I got an email invite to a new Cold Spring Harbor Meeting: The Evolution of Sequencing Technology: A Half Century of Progress

With a long long list of speakers.  Alas, the gender ratio here of speakers is abyssmal.  I have highlighted men in yellow and women in green (with the caveat that I always try to giver that assigning gender from names or appearance or records is not always accurate)

  1. Mark Adams, J. Craig Venter Institute
  2. Gillian Air, University of Oklahoma
  3. Shankar Balasubramanian, University of Cambridge, UK
  4. Hagan Bayley, Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Ltd.
  5. David Bentley, Illumina Cambridge, Ltd
  6. Sydney Brenner, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
  7. Nigel Brown, University of Edinburgh, UK
  8. George Brownlee, University of Oxford, UK 
  9. Graham Cameron, Bioinformatics Resource, Australia EMBL
  10. Piero Carninci, RIKEN Ctr.for Life Science Technologies, Japan
  11. Norman Dovichi, University of Notre Dame
  12. J. William Efcavitch, Molecular Assemblies, Inc.
  13. Miguel Garcia-Sancho, University of Edinburgh, UK
  14. Mark Gerstein, Yale University 
  15. Jack Gilbert, University of Chicago
  16. Walter Gilbert, Harvard University
  17. Philip Green, University of Washington
  18. Leroy Hood, Institute for Systems Biology
  19. Clyde Hutchison, J. Craig Venter Institute
  20. James Kent, University of California, Santa Cruz
  21. Jonas Korlach, Pacific Biosciences
  22. Victor Ling, BC Cancer Agency, Canada
  23. David Lipman, NCBI/NLM National Instiutes of Health 
  24. James Lupski, Baylor College of Medicine
  25. Thomas Maniatis, Columbia University Medical Center
  26. W. Richard McCombie, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  27. Joachim Messing, Waksman Institute, Rutgers University
  28. Gene Myers, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology & Genetics, Germany
  29. Richard Myers, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology
  30. Debbie Nickerson, University of Washington
  31. James Ostell, NLM/NCBI
  32. Stephen Quake, Stanford University/HHMI
  33. Charles Richardson, Harvard Medical School
  34. Richard Roberts, New England BioLabs
  35. Jane Rogers, The Genome Analysis Centre, UK
  36. Mostafa Ronaghi, Illumina, Inc.
  37. Yoshiyuki Sakaki, University of Tokyo
  38. Jay Shendure, University of Washington
  39. Melvin Simon, Caltech
  40. Hamilton Smith, J. Craig Venter Institute
  41. Lloyd Smith, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  42. J. Craig Venter, J. Craig Venter Institute
  43. Robert Waterston, University of Washington
  44. James Watson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory 
  45. Jean Weissenbach, Genoscope, France
  46. Barbara Wold, Caltech
  47. Huanming Yang, Beijing Genomics Institute, China
That is right.  47 speakers.  4 of which are female.  For a whopping 7.8 % female speakers.  This is one of the most extreme skews I have seen for any meeting.  This truly makes me sick to my stomach.   Since there are plenty of women who have had and still have fundamentally important roles in the field of sequencing and sequencing technology I infer that this most likely reflects some type of bias in the meeting organization and planning process.

The meeting page lists the organizers as

  • Mark Adams, J. Craig Venter Institute       
  • Nigel Brown, University of Edinburgh, UK
  • Mila Pollock, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory     
  • Robert Waterston, University of Washington
And one of the major sponsors as Illumina.
I think they all have some explaining to do.
One last note – the meeting description says “The opening session will include a tribute to Frederick Sanger, the father of DNA sequencing, and will cover the early efforts in protein, RNA and DNA sequencing.”  Really?  The father of DNA sequencing?  Seems perfect for this meeting I guess.

UPDATE 6/29/15 7 PM PST

Apparently this meeting is part of a series on the history of molecular biology.  The meeting page says

The CSHL/Genentech Center Conferences on the History of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology (http://library.cshl.edu/hosted-meetings) aim to explore important themes of discovery in the biological sciences, bringing together scientists who made many of the seminal discoveries that began the field with others whose interests may include the current status of the field, the historical progress of the field, and/or the application of these techniques and approaches in biotechnology and medicine. Previous meetings in the series have included:  

Biotechnology: Past, Present & Future (2008)
History of Restriction Enzymes (2013)
Messenger RNA: From Discovery to Synthesis and Regulation in Bacteria and Eukaryotes (2014)
Plasmids: History & Biology (2014)

So I decided to take a peek at these meetings I started with Biotechnology: Past, Present & Future (2008).


  1. Mila Pollock 
  2. Jan Witkowski


  1. Sydney Brenner
  2. Peter Feinstein
  3. Lee Hood
  4. Tom Maniatis
  5. Richard Roberts 

Speakers are listed below:

  1. Garen Bohlin
  2. Robert Bud 
  3. Don Comb 
  4. Peter Feinstein
  5. Maryann Feldman 
  6. Herbert Heyneker 
  7. John H. Leamon
  8. Yuk-Lam Lo 
  9. Alan McHughen 
  10. Stelios Papadopoulos 
  11. Rich Roberts
  12. Robert Steinbrook
  13. Kenneth Thibodeau 
  14. Marc Van Montagu
  15. Charles Weissmann 
  16. Julie Xing
For speakers that comes to 14:2 male:female or 12.5 % female

Next I went to History of Restriction Enzymes (2013).


  1. Herb Boyer, University of California, San Francisco
  2. Stu Linn, University of California, Berkeley
  3. Mila Pollock, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  4. Richard Roberts, New England BioLabs

Speakers are listed below:

  1. Aneel Aggarwal, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  2. Werner Arber, University of Basel, Switzerland
  3. Tom Bickle, University of Basel, Switzerland
  4. Herb Boyer, University of California, San Francisco
  5. Jack Chirikjian, Georgetown University
  6. Steve Halford, Bristol University, United Kingdom
  7. Ken Horiuchi, The Rockefeller University
  8. Clyde Hutchison, J. Craig Venter Institute
  9. Arvydas Janulaitis, Institute of Biotechnology, Lithuania
  10. Stu Linn, University of Califoria, Berkeley
  11. Bill Linton, Promega
  12. Arvydas Lubys, Institute of Biotechnology, Lithuania
  13. Matthew Meselson, Harvard University
  14. Rick Morgan, New England BioLabs
  15. Andrzej Piekarowicz, Warsaw University, Poland
  16. Alfred Pingoud, Institute of Biochemistry – Giessen, Germany
  17. Mila Pollock, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  18. Rich Roberts, New England BioLabs
  19. John Rosenberg, University of Pittsburgh
  20. Ham Smith, J. Craig Venter Institute
  21. Bruno Strasser, Yale University & University of Geneva
  22. Geoff Wilson, New England BioLabs
OK that is 21:1 or 4.5 % women. Well, I guess this makes the meeting on sequencing look good.

  1. James Darnell, The Rockefeller University
  2. Adrian Krainer, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  3. Mila Pollock, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory


  1. Arnold Berk, University of California, Los Angeles
  2. Douglas Black, HHMI, University of California, Los Angeles
  3. George Brawerman, Tufts University School of Medicine
  4. Sydney Brenner, Janelia Farm Research Campus, HHMI
  5. Stephen Buratowski, Harvard Medical School
  6. Louise Chow, University of Alabama
  7. Juan Pablo Couso, University of Sussex, UK
  8. James Darnell, The Rockefeller University
  9. Gideon Dreyfuss, HHMI, University of Pennsylvania
  10. Grigorii Georgiev, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
  11. Adrian Krainer, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  12. Tom Maniatis, Columbia University Medical Center
  13. James Manley, Columbia University
  14. Lynne Maquat, University of Rochester Medical Center
  15. Matthew Meselson, Harvard University
  16. Melissa Moore, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  17. Bernard Moss, National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases
  18. Arthur Pardee, Dana Farber Cancer Institute
  19. Mila Pollock, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  20. Rich Roberts, New England BioLabs
  21. Robert Roeder, The Rockefeller University
  22. Mike Rosbash, Brandeis University
  23. Robert Schleif, John Hopkins University
  24. Robert Singer, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  25. Nahum Sonenberg, McGill University, Montré, Quéc, Canada
  26. Joan Steitz, Yale University/ HHMI
  27. David Tollervey, Wellcome Center for Cell Biology; University of Edinburgh, UK
  28. Jonathan Warner, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
  29. James Watson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

So so much better no? 24:5 Male: Female or 17% female (for the speakers).

Finally I checked out Plasmids: History & Biology (2014)


  1. Dhruba Chattoraj, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD
  2. Stanley N. Cohen, Stanford University
  3. Stanley Falkow, Stanford University
  4. Richard Novick, New York University
  5. Chris Thomas, University of Birmingham, UK
  6. Jan Witkowski, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY


  1. Peter Barth, Helsby, Cheshire UK
  2. Susana Brom, Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México, Cuernavaca, Morelos Mexico
  3. Ananda Chakrabarty, University of Illinois
  4. Mike Chandler, Université Sabatier, Toulouse, France
  5. Dhruba Chattoraj, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD
  6. Don Clewell, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  7. Stanley N. Cohen, Stanford University
  8. Fernando de la Cruz, Universidad de Cantabria, Spain
  9. R. Curtiss III, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
  10. Julian Davies, University of British Columbia, Canada
  11. Stanley Falkow, Stanford University
  12. Laura Frost, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  13. Barbara Funnell, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  14. Mathias Grote, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany
  15. George A. Jacoby, Lahey Clinic, Burlington, MA
  16. Mark Jones, Life Sciences Foundation, San Francisco, CA
  17. Saleem Khan, University of Pittsburgh
  18. Bruce Levin, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
  19. John Mekalanos, Harvard Medical School
  20. Marc van Montagu, Ghent University, Belgium
  21. Richard Novick, New York University
  22. David Sherratt, University of Oxford, UK
  23. David Summers, University of Cambridge, UK
  24. Chris Thomas, University of Birmingham, UK
  25. Eva Top, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID
  26. Gerhart Wagner, Uppsala University, Sweden
  27. Michael Yarmolinsky, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda MD
  28. Peter Young, University of York, UK

That comes to 24:4 for speakers or 14% female.

Notice any patterns?  The totals for these meetings come to 17 women out of 142 speakers.  Or ~12 %.  That is a dismal record for Cold Spring Harbor Labs and certainly does not convince me that they are trying at all to have diversity represented at their meetings.  I note – I truly love many things about CSHL.  This is definitely not one of them.

UPDATE 2 – Some discussion of this post on Twitter










//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js UPDATE 3: Made a Storify w/ some of the discussions

Time to boycott Oxford Global meetings due to blatant sexism

I don’t even know what to say or do about this it is so stunningly pathetic.  I saw this Tweet earlier in the day:

I figured even in an era of blatant sexism in science, this must be a mistake right?  How could there be a conference with 38 male speakers and 0 female speakers.  So I went to the site: Who is Speaking – Oxford Global’s 13th Pharmaceutical IT Congress, September 2015.  And, well, as far as I can tell Elisabeth Bik has the numbers right.  (See a list at the end of this post).  They even have a running slideshow of the speakers faces.

This is even worse than the 25:1 ratio of the qBio meeting I lost it over a few years ago.  I have never seen anything like this. I note – a 38:0 ratio is nearly impossible by chance in any field and I think pretty clearly an indication of massive bias of some kind.

I note – this is not the first case of a mostly male meeting from Oxford Global.  See for example:
Oxford Global Sequencing Meetings: Where MEN Tell You About Sequencing #YAMMM

I think it is time to just boycott meetings meetings from Oxford Global.  The only way they will change is if people stop speaking at or going to their meetings.  So please – stop going to their meetings.  Stop speaking at their meetings.

Speakers 2015:

  • Sebastien Lefebvre 
    Director Data Engineering and Technology – Global Data Office, Biogen Idec
  • Uwe Barlage
    EDC Project Leader, Bayer Healthcare
  • Marc Berger
    Vice President, Real World Data and Analytics, Pfizer
  • Michael Braxenthaler
    Pharma Research and Early Development Informatics, Global Head Strategic Alliances, Roche, & President, Pistoia Alliance
  • Arnaub Chatterjee
    Associate Director – Data Science, Insights and Partnerships, Merck
  • James Connelly
    Global Head, Research Data Management, Sanofi
  • Jos Echelpoels
    Director IT, Regional Initiatives, Janssen
  • Brian Ellerman
    ‎Head of Technology Scouting and Information Science Innovation, Sanofi
  • Peter Elsig Raun
    Director & Head Business Analysis, Lundbeck
  • Dimitrios Georgiopoulos
    Chief Scientific Officer UK, Novartis
  • Charles Gerrits
    Vice President, Innovative Patient-Centric Endpoints and Solutions, Sanofi
  • Yike Guo
    Professor of Computing Science, Imperial College London and Chief Technology Officer, tranSMART Foundation
  • Sergio H. Rotstein
    Director, Research Business Technology, Pfizer
  • Juergen Hammer
    Global Head Data Science, Center Head Pharma Research and Early Development Informatics, Roche
  • Jan Hauss
    Head Central Analytics Informatics, Merck
  • Athula Herath
    Statistical Director, Translational Sciences, MedImmune
  • Nigel Hughes
    Director Integrative Healthcare Informatics, Janssen Research and Development
  • Michael Hvalsøe Brinkløv
    BI Architect, IT Platforms & Infrastructure, Lundbeck
  • Robert J. Boland
    Senior Manager, Translational Informatics & External Innovation R&D IT, Janssen
  • Adrian Jones
    Associate Director, Business Intelligence Systems, Astellas
  • Srivatsan Krishnan
    Director and Head of R&D Operations and IT, Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Philippe Marc
    Global Head of Preclinical Informatics, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research
  • Dermot McCaul
    Director, Preclinical Development and Biologics IT, Merck
  • Pantaleo Nacci
    Head Statistical Safety & Epidemiology/PV, Novartis Vaccine and Diagnostics Srl (a GSK company)
  • Gerhard Noelken
    Global Business IT Lead for Pharmaceutical Science, Pfizer WRD
  • Emmanuel Pham
    VP Biométrie, Ipsen 
  • Andrew Porter
    Director, Enterprise Architecture, Merck
  • Gabriele Ricci
    Vice President of TechOpps IT, Shire
  • Anthony Rowe
    Director, Translational Informatics and External Innovation, Johnson & Johnson
  • Martin Ryzl
    Director, GIC Analytics Platform Engineering, Merck
  • Wolfgang Seemann
    Senior Project Manager, Bayer Business Services
  • Aziz Sheikh
    Professor of Primary Care Research & Development and Co-Director Center for Population Health Sciences, The University of Edinburgh
  • Yan Song
    Associate Director, Bioanalysis Operations, AbbVie
  • Devry Spreitzer
    Director, Global Electronic Systems Quality Assurance, Astellas
  • Jason Swift
    Head R&D Information UK, AstraZeneca
  • Kevin Teburi
    Director – iMed Team Leader, R&D Information, AstraZeneca
  • Simon Thornber
    Director, Data Analytics, Informatics and Innovation, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Tjeerd Van Staa
    Professor of Health eResearch, University of Manchester
Some past meetings from Oxford Global to consider

Cell Symposia have a problem with gender balance of speakers

With apologies I don’t have time right now to tease apart all the details on these meetings. But, yuck. Cell Symposia have a big and persistent problem with gender balance of speakers. See the Storify below:

Four simple tools to promote gender balance at conferences – guest post from Julie Pfeiffer @jkpfeiff

Guest post from Julie Pfeiffer.

Julie Pfeiffer
Associate Professor of Microbiology
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Four simple tools to promote gender balance at conferences 

1. Know that you are biased. Identify your biases.

We all have biases and many of them are unconscious. You can discover your own biases using online social attitude tests developed by Project Implicit, a non-profit organization affiliated with Harvard University. The Gender-Science Implicit Association Test is particularly relevant here. It turns out that I have moderate bias linking science with males, as well as other biases. Knowing this fact has been extremely important. It is very difficult to alter unconscious bias, but it is easy to understand that you are biased and edit your actions accordingly. For example, if I need to make a list of potential speakers or authors quickly, the list will be of senior men from the United States. The key is to spend time EDITING the list to ensure diversity.

2. Keep track of numbers.

Most individuals in leadership positions are not seeking to exclude women or other groups from plenary talks, career opportunities, etc. Instead, they simply forget to count. They forget to keep track of gender ratio and other types of diversity. They forget to edit. When leaders/organizers have diversity in mind, diversity is relatively easy to achieve. Two examples illustrate this point:

1) Vincent Racaniello is President of the American Society for Virology and his goal was to put together an outstanding and diverse group of plenary speakers for the annual meeting in 2015. He asked for speaker suggestions via emails and Twitter (https://twitter.com/profvrr). He made a list and he edited it. The result? The best representation of female scientists at a conference I have ever seen— 50% of the plenary speakers at ASV this year are female.

2) The Associate Editors at the Journal of Virology choose topics and authors for short reviews called “Gems”. The goal was to have high diversity in several areas including author gender, author career stage, author location, and topic. To keep ourselves on track to achieve this goal, we included several extra columns in our author/topic spreadsheet: Female? Non-USA location? Junior PI? This simple reminder in the spreadsheet has helped us select relatively diverse authors and topics: ~30% are female, ~30% are Assistant Professors, and ~20% are at institutions outside the United States.

3. Create lists and ask people for suggestions. 

Trying to come up with names of female scientists de novo can be a challenge. A few months ago, Carolyn Coyne, Erica Ollmann-Saphire, and Clodagh O’Shea made a list of as many female virologists as they could. Over wine, they devised a list of 70 names. We have circulated this list to many of our colleagues and tweeted a request to send missing names. The list is now at 349 and is publicly available (please tweet missing names to https://twitter.com/jkpfeiff). It is much easier to think of diverse options for speakers and authors by using a pre-existing list. Virologists with this list can no longer claim that they “couldn’t think of a female speaker”. Each field could benefit from a list like this, which could also include other underrepresented groups. Several of these lists exist, as has been highlighted on this and other blogs.

4. Speak up and enlist the help of supportive senior faculty.

Expressing concern to conference organizers about low speaker diversity can go a long way. While it may be difficult to change the speaker list close to the conference date, mentioning the lack of diversity could change the future landscape of the conference. I have an example from my own experience: I created an international shitstorm that had a great outcome. In year three of my faculty position I was considering whether to attend a major conference, so I checked the speaker list to help make my decision. Zero of 18 plenary speakers were female. I decided not to attend. Instead, I emailed the conference organizer to express my disappointment with the complete lack of female plenary speakers. His response, over several emails, was less than supportive:

“…. Finally, the gender, race, religion has never been, to my opinion, valuable ways to select presenters of scientific works. The selection of the Plenary Lectures has been made by the Organizing Committee, that comprises a woman, based on the topic, then the best possible speaker on the topic…. I am aware of the current debate in our societies about “minimum numbers”. I do not think they would help the cause of women in science.”

While this organizer was not supportive or responsive to my speaker suggestions, five senior (famous) faculty members in the field were hyper-supportive. Upon hearing this story, they each contacted the organizer and expressed their concern about the lack of diversity. It was too late to change the program for the conference that year. However, in every subsequent year, the plenary speakers at this conference have included women and other underrepresented groups. So, it’s possible that a simple email from a young scientist can make a difference, particularly with the help of senior faculty.

Calling attention to meetings with skewed speaker gender ratios, even when it hurts, part 2

A few weeks ago I gave a talk at the Future of Genomic Medicine 2015 (aka #FOGM15) meeting.  The talk seemed to go over well.  I talked right after Martin Blaser in a session on “The Microbiome”.  I posted my slides and then a video of my talk as well as notes from the meeting: see My microbiome talk at #FOGM15 – the perils (and fun I guess) of redoing one’s talk at the last minute.  And I met some really interesting people at the meeting and enjoyed most of the talks I went to.

But alas, one thing stuck in my head from this meeting.  One single Tweet from someone out there threw me for a loop:

And this let to a bit of soul searching on my part.  Some of the conversations on Twitter are captured in this Storify:

Which I guess culminated in a post to the organizers of the meeting


Then, when I left the meeting I went to say goodbye to the organizers.  And, well, one of them did not take too kindly to the critique of the meeting, saying that they were doing a better job than other healthcare meetings.  I disagreed and said I thought they could do much better, but I had no numbers to cite at the time and the conversation ended there.

So on the way to the airport I started digging around for some numbers and I found some great resources – especially this from Rock Health.

And for the last few weeks I have continued to fester wondering – well – should I post more about this?  Should I dig into the gender ratio of the FOGM meetings in more detail?  Well, why do it?  Because I think it is important to know how meetings perform in terms of diversity.  Why not do it?  Well, I like Eric Topol and the other organizers.  And the meeting has many strong points.  But, as I wrote a few days ago – sometimes one needs to call attention to meeting gender ratio issues, even when it hurts.  

So then I decided to dig a little deeper and look at past versions of the “Future of Genomic Medicine”.  And, well, when I did this, things just do not look so good (detailed analysis is at the end of the post). (Note – for the numbers i counted all presenting slots – session chairs, keynotes, welcomes, etc.  The numbers are not much different if one counts just “talks”).

If one compares these meetings to the ones catalogued by Rock Health, the FOGM meetings are at the low end.  Not the worst certainly.  But definitely not something to be proud of.  And certainly something that could be improved upon enormously.  So I repeat the Tweet I posted during the meeting, and I stand by it, even if it means I am unlikely to be invited back and even if it means pissing off some big shots in the world of genomics …

If you are running a meeting, please consider the ways in which bias may creep into the speaker and session chair slots.  If speakers come from invitations, perhaps the invitation list is biased.  Perhaps certain types of people are more likely to say no to invitations.  Perhaps the timing of the meeting (e.g., on weekend) may lead certain types of people to not be able to participate.  Perhaps the meeting does not provide enough travel funds or child care or the right kind of schedule.  There are so many things that can lead to bias – from explicit bias against certain groups to very subtle implicit biases.  Consider inviting people from diverse career stages, which can open up speaking slots to more women and underrepresented minorities.  Consider providing child care.  Consider asking people why they say no to invitations to try and understand what is going on if many people say no.  Consider asking for help in finding speakers covering the diversity in the field.

If you do all these things, and the meeting still does not have diverse speakers, well, try some other things.  Keep trying to figure it out.  There are resources out there that can help.  Read things like Some suggestions for having diverse speakers at meetings (by me) and Ten Simple Rules to Achieve Conference Speaker Gender Balance (by Jenny Martin) and Increasing Diversity at Your Conference by Ashe Dryden (which is just completely awesome) and How To Create A More Diverse Tech Conference … and Would I attend my own conference? – O’Reilly Radar by Sarah Milstein.

Why is this important?  Well, speaking at a meeting is important for people’s careers.  It helps in merit and promotion and tenure cases.  It helps get their work recognized and known.  Speaking at a meeting is also good practice for speaking at other meetings.  Having diverse speakers also is important in terms of providing role models to attendees.  And having diverse speakers helps a meeting not just be about the same old, white, men talking about their ideas.  Or, in other words, it makes a meeting more, well, diverse.  And almost certainly more interesting.  And so on.  Diversity of speakers at meetings is important for 100s of reasons.  And don’t just focus on one aspect of diversity.  I post a lot about women speakers because, well, it is easy to make a reasonable guess as to whether a person is male or female.  But there are MANY other aspects of diversity to consider (see Increasing Diversity at Your Conference by Ashe Dryden (which I referenced above and which really is awesome).

Anyway – if you are organizing a meeting, make sure to think about these issues.  And do something about them.  And if you are invited to a meeting, look at the speaker list (if it is available) and consider saying no to speaking if the meeting has diversity issues (see a post of mine about doing this here: Turning down an endowed lectureship because their gender ratio is too skewed towards males #WomenInSTEM).

And if you are considering attending a meeting, consider diversity of speakers when deciding whether or not to attend.  Meetings with high diversity of speakers should be supported.  Meetings with poor diversity relative to possible candidate speakers (e.g., who is in the field) should be avoided, shunned, and called out.  We need to force change upon some fields and the only way will be to call out the bad apples.  Mind you, it is not possible to know WHY a meeting has a skew in terms of diversity of speakers.  Thus one additional thing to consider is whether something is a consistent pattern.  For example see my post about meetings from the National Academy of Sciences Sackler Colloquia – Apparently, the National Academy of Sciences thinks only one sex is qualified to talk about alternatives to sex #YAMMM. Sadly it seems to me that the FOGM meetings have a consistent pattern of poor representation of women among the presenters.  Unless the organizers commit to changing this, I think people should not attend this meeting in the future.


Detailed analyses of these meetings are below.

People I have identified as males are labelled in yellow.  People I have identified as females are in green.  I realize that this is an imperfect thing to do.  I may make mistakes in my inferences.  And dividing people into two categories is not representative of the true diversity in the human population.  But I still think this is a useful, informative thing to try to do.

2015 FOGM (schedule is from the one sent around to participants on 3/4/15)

  • Welcome
    • Eric Topol
    • Pateint #1 – Eunice Lee and Nilesh Dharajiya
    • Francis Collins
  • Session 1
    • Moderator Ali Torkamani
    • Diana Bianchi
    • Evan Muse
    • Stephen Quake
    • David Hoon
  • Session 2
    • Moderator Ali Torkamani
    • Mark McCarthy
    • Christopher Austin
    • George Yancopoulos
  • Session 3
    • Moderators Nathan Wineinger and Andrew Su
    • Atul Butte
    • Eric Schadt
    • Andrew Su
    • Joe Pickrell
  • Welcome Day 2
    • Patient #2
    • Eric Topol
  • Session 4: 
    • Moderator Ali Torkamani
    • Cristian Tomasetti
    • Nazneen Rahman
    • Roni Ziegler
  • Session 5
    • Moderators Kristin Baldwin and Fyodor Urnov
    • J. Keith Joung
    • Fyodor Urnov
    • TBD
    • Kristin Baldwin
  • Session 5
    • Moderator Kristian Andersen
    • Martin Blaser
    • Jonathan Eisen
    • Stephen Steinhubl
  • Session 6
    • Moderator David Goldstein  (he did not show up)
    • Elizabeth Worthey
    • Ali Torkamani
    • Seth Mnookin
    • Virginia Hughes
All speaker and session chair slots

  • Male: 30 (81%)
  • Female: 7 (19%)

Just speakers

  • Male: 23
  • Female: 6

2014 – Future of Genomic Medicine VII –  schedule from here

  • Welcome
    • Chris Van Gorder, FACHE
    • Eric J. Topol, MD
    • Patient / Family #1
  • Session 1
    • Frank McCormick
    • Bert Vogelstein
    • Elaine Mardis
    • Robert Nussbaum
    • Sarah Jane Dawson
    • Michael Pellini
  • Session 2
    • J. Craig Venter
    • Eric Topol 
    • Al Gore
    • Heidi Rehm
    • Muin Khoury
  • Session 3
    • Moderator Katrina Kelner
    • Leonid Kruglyak
    • Carl Zimmer
    • Magdalena Skipper
    • Chris Gunter
  • Session 4
    • Patient / Family #2
    • Athur Beaudet
    • Jay Shendure
    • Howard Jacob
    • Hakon Hakonarson
    • David Epstein
    • Nir Birzalai
    • Ali Torkamani
    • Jeffrey Hammerbacher
  • Session 5
    • Michael Specter
    • Jessica Richman
    • Andrew Feinberg
    • Russ Altman
    • Anne Wojcicki
    • Harry Greenspun
    • Zubin Damania


  • Male: 25 (76%)
  • Female: 8 (24%)

2013 – Future of Genomic Medicine VI – schedule from here

  • Welcome: Eric Topol
  • Patient / Family #1
  • Session 1:
    • Michael Snyder
    • William Gahl
    • Howard Jacob
    • Ali Torkamani
    • Gholson Lyon
    • Cinnamon Bloss
    • Misha Angrist
  • Session 2
    • Evan Eichler
    • Eric Schadt
    • Katrina Armstrong
    • George Weinstock
  • Session 3
    • Joe Ecker
    • Stephen Kingsmore
    • Stephen Quake
  • Session 4
    • Patient / Family #2
    • Siddhartha Mukherjee
    • Elaine Mardis
    • Daniel D. Von Hoff
    • Randy Scott
    • Susan Desmond Hellman
    • Elias Zerhouni
    • Janet Woodcock
  • Session 5
    • Peter Vesscher
    • David Goldstein
    • George Church
    • Jonathan Eisen
    • Atul Butte
    • AJ Jacobs
    • Neil Risch
    • Lonny Reisman
    • Daniel MacArthur


  • Male: 26 (84%)
  • Female: 5 (16%)

2012 Future of Genomic Medicine V – schedule from here

  • Welcome
    • Chris Van Gorder, FACHE
    • Eric J. Topol, MD
  • Joseph Beery and Family
  • Moderators: Samuel Levy, PhD and Eric J. Topol, MD
    • Samuel Levy, PhD
    • Matthew J. Price, MD
    • Julie Johnson, PharmD
    • Michael R. Hayden MB, ChB, PhD
    • William E. Evans, PharmD
  • Moderators: Evan Eichler, PhD and Sarah Murray,
    • Evan Eichler, PhD
    • Christofer Toumazou, PhD
    • Siddharta Mukherjee, MD, PhD
    • Sarah Murray, PhD
  • Moderators Nicholas Schork, PhD and Bradley Patay, MD
    • Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD
    • Isaac Kohane , MD, PhD
    • John A. Todd, FRS, PhD
  • Moderators Eric J. Topol, MD and Nicholas Schork, PhD
    • Howard J. Jacob, PhD
    • Joseph G. Gleeson, MD
    • Stanley F. Nelson, MD
    • Lynn Jorde, PhD (note – originalled labelled as female – corrected thanks to comment from Bruce Rannala)
  • Eric J. Topol, MD
  • Moderators: Aravinda Chakravarti, PhD and Richard Klausner, 
    • Aravinda Chakravarti, PhD
    • Joseph Nadeau, PhD
    • Nicholas Schork, PhD
    • Hakon Hakonarson MD, PhD
  • Moderator Eric Topol
    • Matthew Herper
    • Daniel B. Vorhaus, JD, MA
    • Issam Zineh, PharmD, MPH
  • Moderators: Elaine Mardis, PhD and Jeffrey Trent, PhD
    • Richard D. Klausner, MD
    • Thomas J. Hudson, MD
    • Jeffrey M. Trent, PhD
    • Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD
    • Elaine R. Mardis, PhD
  • Moderators: Samuel Levy, PhD and Fred Gage, PhD
    • Fred H. Gage, PhD
    • Bruce D. Gelb, MD
    • Joseph C. Wu, MD, PhD
All speaker and session chair slots

  • Male: 44 (88%)  45 (90 %)
  • Female: 6 (12%) 5 (10 %)

Just speakers

  • Male: 31 32 (91.4%)
  • Female: 4  3 (8.6%)

2011 Future of Genomic Medicine IV – schedule from here

  • Session 1: Moderators: Sarah S. Murray, PhD and Eric J. Topol, MD
    • Hannah A. Valantine, MD
    • Geoff Ginsburg, MD, PhD
    • Steve Shak, MD
    • Cinnamon S. Bloss, PhD
    • Matthew J. Price, MD
  • Session 2: Moderators: Bradley Patay, MD and Nicholas J. Schork, PhD
    • Kevin Davies, PhD
    • Thomas Goetz, MPh
    • Melanie Swan, MBA
  • Session 3: Moderators: Samuel Levy, PhD and Nicholas J. Schork, PhD
    • Kári Stefánsson, MD
    • Aravinda Chakravarti, PhD
    • Howard J. Jacob, PhD
    • Sarah S. Murray, PhD
    • James R. Lupski, MD, PhD
    • Nicholas J. Schork, PhD
    • Stephen L. Hauser, MD
    • David R. Bentley, D.Phil, F.Med.Sci.
  • Keynote: Juan Enriquez, BA, MBA
  • Session 4: Moderators: Robert L. Strausberg, PhD and Samuel Levy, PhD
    • Robert L. Strausberg, PhD
    • Elaine R. Mardis, PhD
    • Thomas J. Kipps, MD, PhD
    • Samuel Levy, PhD
    • Daniel D. Von Hoff, MD
    • Dennis A. Carson, MD
  • Session 5: Moderators: Eric J. Topol, MD and Bradley Patay, MD
    • Eric J. Topol, MD
    • Amy Harmon
    • Misha Angrist, PhD
  • Session 6: Moderators: Sarah S. Murray, PhD and Samuel Levy, PhD
    • Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD
    • Mark McCarthy, MD, F.Med.Sci.
    • Karen Mohlke, PhD
    • Stephen S. Rich, PhD
    • Philippe Froguel, MD, PhD
    • Muredach P. Reilly, MB, MS

All speaker and session chair slots

  • Male: 35 (80%)
  • Female: 9 (20%)

Today’s all male genomics meeting brought to you by Oxford Nanopores

The Tweets about this really say it all so I am just going to embed them here:





Really disappointed in Oxford Nanopores.  Perhaps we can get some of the speakers to cancel on them unless they fix things.

  • Ron Ammar, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Ewan Birney, European Bioinformatics Institute, UK
  • Thomas Hoenen, NIH/NIAID, USA
  • Nick Loman, University of Birmingham, UK
  • Brook Milligan, New Mexico State University, USA
  • Justin O’Grady, University of East Anglia, UK
  • Jared Simpson, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Canada
  • Yutaka Suzuki, University of Tokyo, Japan
  • Mick Watson, The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, UK
Update 3/8/15 
Well, after I posted about the Nanopore meeting there were some responses on Twitter. So I made a Storify

So I decided to check the meeting today to see whether they “fixed” anything.

Right now they list 11 male and two female speakers.  So that added two males and two females.  Better ratio.  Still pretty bad.  They really could do better …