I'm Alex Kearney, a PhD student studying Computer Science at the University of Alberta. I focus on Artificial Intelligence and Epistemology.


The struggle of @black_in_ai organizers trying to bring a diverse audience to #neurips reminds me of a point @erica_joy made in an interview:

“We aren’t thinking about the lost time spent having to fight those issues.”

These researchers are providing a service to the community which comes at a cost. We need to be better at acknowledging this and providing support.



Important points about the value and importance of communication in research here.

Other additional factor to note:

  • spending time on outreach will necessarily mean less time on fundamental research. It’s a trade-off that needs to be appreciated more.

I often see this expectation that the people doing outreach and community coordination will just magically be able to do that and produce the same amount of work as people who aren’t taking on these other tasks. Eventually it just becomes expected that some of the students will take on these projects alongside their research responsibilities.

They get burnt out. They stop. The community goes through an outreach drought.

This happens a lot with minority students in STEM get tapped to do community outreach. It’s all good if you’re interested in community building, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to work on these issues. The effort should be recognized as coming at the expense of research.

Moreover, people leading diversity initiatives shouldn't feel entitled to minority student's time when it comes to contributing to diversity projects just because they're a minority. Too many times I see people working on these sorts of projects getting shoe-horned into the roles because they're in an under-represented group.

Even if students are interested in diversity projects, it becomes a balancing act in maintaining their academic reputation: the more they work on these community and diversity building initiatives, the less of a serious scientist they are to some people---even if they're a wildly talented researcher. This is a massive shame that holds the whole community back.