Culture Dish Diversity Mixer: Building Connections Between Science Writers

By Ivan F. Gonzalez, Ph.D.

The basement was packed, and dozens of voices filled the space. I hear the bartender said they were not expecting this big a turnout at the diversity mixer, they expected at best seventy people. I estimate there were at least twice as many. I would love to have the bartender confirming or refuting my calculations; but, I did not have the chance to ask her, it was too crowded.

A few hours earlier I had no idea that so many people were going to spend a fun evening in such close proximity with other science writers. My group arrived early at the Culture Dish Diversity Mixer, organized by Apoorva Mandavilli and Nidhi Subbaraman, sponsored by their National Association of Science Writers Idea Grant. The mixer was an all-are-welcome social event to celebrate and promote diversity at the annual Science Writers conference. This was the first event organized by Culture Dish; and, we, the DiverseScholar NASW 2014 Diversity fellows, were ready to support and participate in the mixer from the get-go.

When we got to the brewery and went downstairs we found about five people already waiting in the basement. I was happy to be with a group of people so diverse, interesting, and fun; but, I was still insecure about how many more people would join us. I decided to go up to the street level to make sure people coming from the conference hotel knew that the mixer was happening downstairs, and also to meet my guest, a friend researcher from Ohio State University, who I was going to meet at the brewery.

Standing on the sidewalk, outside the door of the restaurant and chatting with my friend, I started to see a stream of people with their conference nametags coming down the street. First I saw a group of six people:

“The diversity culture dish mixer is in the basement”, I said while pointing to the door.

I was delighted to see that all of them went downstairs to join the Mixer.

Soon more people began arriving in groups of six or more, including a group of about twenty people. I realized that everyone already knew what they were coming for, I realized that the diversity mixer would be a success. To announce the event was not necessary, I just occasionally had to point my arm towards the door and say “basement.”

When the flow of people began to slow down it was time to go to the mixer. My friend and I did not want to miss the action. Downstairs we entered a room as big as a semi-Olympic pool, with century-old stone walls. Bar and food at one end, high round tables scattered in the middle, and, at the other end, two brick arches that opened into small rooms.

diversity is worth supporting actively

It was really crowded. My friend and I stayed in the little rooms near the exit where the conversation was quieter and there was chance that we might understand the people talking to us in English. Frankly, the conversations that followed were delicious. After a few conversations, my friend told me how happy he was that he had come to the mixer, and that he loved the diversity of people in the room.

“I have spoken with journalists, students, writers, neuroscientists, geologists, broadcasters, and biologists in a single night” – he told me - “My meetings in electromagnetism don’t such a diversity of professions and life stories. I love this group!”

I commented that this was a social event celebrating diversity; but, if the diversity of professions attending the conference was pretty good, our overall diversity as a community was lacking (Diep 2014). Science writing was still a field plagued with the barriers that typically limit the access and success of women, people of color, and the disabled as the testimonials from the conference show. This mixer was a great space to bring together more diverse voices and to help them meet other writers supporting diversity.

“Excellent!” - said my friend- “Have you met another Hispanic writer?”

“Not yet.”

¡No mames guey!” he switched to Spanish to say this, with perfect pronunciation, despite being from Turkey.

“It doesn’t suck” - I said - “I am happy”.

I came to the science writers meeting to promote Red Comuniciencia, a professional network of science communicators creating content in Spanish for the Hispanic audiences (Gonzalez 2014), and to live-tweet the event in Spanish. I was also here to help raise awareness about the lack of diversity in our profession. I was spending time with other amazing communicators and diversity champions, having fun but also talking seriously to raise our voices. That’s what we were doing that night, that was what made me so happy at the mixer.

People around us were having a good time that establishes familiarity and trust — building connections between people that seldom share a common space. There was an imperfect mix that night compared to the nation’s diversity; but, how can the U.S. be reflected in one room for just one night? It was a delicious mix, and something of a memorable beginning. The important accomplishment was to make tangible the support from our science writer community toward the value of diversity.

If the number of people in the room that night is a reflection of something, it’s that things are changing. More people are realizing that diversity is worth supporting actively.

I felt good at the mixer among the best company in the world, ready to promote diversity, today, tomorrow, and for as long as it is needed.

References

F. Diep (2014) Diversity in Science Writing: a Survey, TheOpenNotebook, September 23

I.F. Gonzalez (2014) Hispanic Audiences and Diversity in Science Journalism, DiverseScholar,5:4

Ivan Fernando Gonzalez is a Colombian-Peruvian freelance science writer in Richland, Eastern Washington. His writings, community projects, and pictures can be found at www.IvanFGonzalez.com. Any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

Photo credits: I.F. Gonzalez,
DiverseScholar NASW Diversity Travel Fellows group photo at mixer by K. Sobowale

The citation for this article is:
I.F. Gonzalez (2014) Culture Dish Diversity Mixer: Building Connections Between Science Writers.
DiverseScholar 5:12


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Published 31-Dec-2014