Diversity of participant representation within the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

17 April 2018

The 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (LiNo16) was dedicated to the field of physics. A total of 29 Nobel Laureates, 1 A.M. Turing Award recipient and 400 young scientists attended LiNo16 in Lindau, Germany. Young scientists from 80 countries attended the meeting. Out of the 400 young scientists at the meeting, only 30% were women scientists, and only one of the Nobel Laureate attendees was a woman. Natural sciences have often been dominated by a single stereotype: white men from predominantly Western or developed countries. Although a lot is being done to increase human capacity in the sciences in the less developed and developing world, it has become apparent that there is a persistent lack of diversity in the sciences.1,2 Extensive studies have also revealed that the rate of participation of women and minority groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is significantly lower than the representation of women and minorities in society at large. As a strategy to improve women and minority representation, more countries are encouraging the involvement of these groups in science from a young age – a strategy which is the norm in many developed countries and which has been shown to have a positive correlation with high representativity of women and minority groups. It is evident that global scientific collaborations encourage unity and inclusion regardless of power, race, beliefs and gender.3,4 It has become imperative for society to be well capacitated in order to deal with global issues. The exclusion of certain groups based on gender and race, among other factors, means the game is played with less than half of the team. Diversity should be the basis for increased collaboration and not grounds for marginalisation. Nowotny et al.5 describe diversity as a prominent theme in science and technology to determine technical processes, economic systems and social structures. Since 1951, 350 Nobel Laureates have committed to the exchange among scientists with the aim of fostering education, inspiration and connection,6 leveraging on diversity for increased scientific output as a result of collaboration and sharing of best practice experiences. This initiative, which is realised through annual meetings, has fostered and increased exchange amongst young scientists within their respective fields by exposure to a diversity of thinkers and new ideas. The meetings have encouraged global engagement on the unprecedented scale of the global problems we face today. Furthermore, the meetings enable the exploration and encouragement of the scientific diversity that lies in the world and the potential for addressing global issues. We analysed diversity in terms of representation of gender and countries of origin at the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Additionally, we ponder here on the lessons that came with the meeting. It is expected that our analysis will help to sensitise, motivate and improve the number of women and underrepresented regions with respect to participation in STEM meetings and forums. A diversity of attendees ensures a balanced benefit from the lessons that are acquired during such meetings. Through diversity, we believe that current scientific global challenges can be re-evaluated and innovations towards solutions developed more objectively, independent of gender, beliefs and race bias