Editing contributions by: Dr Jemima Ho (The London Postdocs, King’s College London), Jumani Yogarajah, Kailey Nolan (NIHR ARC North Thames), Dr Morag Lewis (The London Postdocs, KCL), Dr Rui Pires Martins (The London Postdocs, QMUL), Dr Sarah Jasim (The London Postdocs, NIHR ARC North Thames, UCL, LSE), Dr Shaakir Salam (The London Postdocs, KCL)
What’s for lunch? So how was the food? Were there free drinks afterwards? These are common questions asked by early–career researchers (ECRs) during and after academic events and conferences. Not to say that we are all about the food, but it’s common knowledge that this is where a key part of vital academic networking occurs.
So, what if your diet excludes you from joining in? Too many conferences do not cater for dietary restrictions, resulting in feeling overlooked or left out. Meeting new people is awkward enough; such instances of exclusion make it harder still to put your best foot forward, limiting the networking opportunities that are so vital for our careers.
What happens in this situation? People are left to spend their lunch time hunting outside for a shop that can provide for them where the conference organisers have not, rather than participating in the conference with the rest of their peers. It seems like a small thing, but it is profoundly unwelcoming to be told that there’s no lunch for you in the middle of the day, and no snacks during tea breaks. Bringing food is a common coping mechanism, although fielding all the questions that provokes is not fun. Alternatively, you can go with whatever looks like it will be safe, and hope you guessed right, but conferences should be places for engaging with your peers and their research, not for worrying that the food you just ate may be hiding an unpleasant surprise.
The whole situation suggests a deeper problem. If a conference can’t manage something as simple as a dietary requirement, how do they cope with other accessibility accommodations? We recognise that there has been a global push towards inclusivity – not just of dietary requirements and restrictions, but of accessibility in general – but has the academic sector caught up? From conference organisers, to peers, to the way networking is designed – are we all being as inclusive and considerate as we should be?
Can you relate? Share your story
The Lost Voices is a series of three initiatives aiming to collate stories on inequalities faced by the early-career researcher (ECR) community, to help empower us all and enact institutional change. It is led by The London Postdocs and the NIHR ARC North Thames Academy, and funded by a UCL Researcher-Led Initiative Award.
In the first phase, we are inviting early career researchers to share their story. So if you have experienced inequality, bias or prejudice in any form, please let us know by:
- Posting your anonymous story on the The Lost Voices Story Collection
- Sharing your experience anonymously in the The Lost Voices ECR survey
- Sending us a short video (maximum length: 2 minutes 19 seconds) via WeTransfer (see our Youtube channel for examples) detailing your experience. We are offering £10 vouchers (Lifestyle/ Amazon) via e-mail for your time.
The London Postdocs will be interviewing senior academics across different disciplines and institutions who have also faced inequalities in their careers – so we can all learn from their experiences. If you are a senior academic who has faced or overcome inequalities during your career, please get in touch with us at or contribute your anonymous views via The Lost Voices senior academics survey.
We will then collect both early-career researcher and senior academic stories and discuss and debate these issues with institutional decision makers on Monday 24th May, with the aim of illuminating these experiences and inspiring further initiatives that drive change.
Food for Thought: An Anonymous Story
Enjoyed the read? The second blog from The Lost Voices Campaign will be published later this week