Diversity and Inclusion Policy

ASSC Executive Director and Board – June 13, 2024

1. Introduction

The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (“the ASSC”, “the Association”) has decided to make the question of diversity and inclusion in its community one of its priorities. In particular, the ASSC wants to encourage and promote the participation, accessibility, active representation and leadership of a diverse community of international researchers. Beyond promoting diversity, the Association hopes to promote an environment that is supportive of all diverse groups in the interest of equity and of advancing science.

2. Desired Outcome

  1. The ASSC Board, officers, committees, conference organizers, speakers at the conference and conference attendees reflect the diversity of the research community on consciousness.
  2. The ASSC helps increase professional and academic opportunities for students and researchers from underrepresented or minority groups and promotes diversity in the field of consciousness research.
  3. The ASSC contributes to bringing together academics of all backgrounds, to discuss and collaborate, in a respectful and safe environment, free of harassment and discrimination (see ASSC Code of Conduct)

3. Action Plan

In order to promote diversity and inclusivity in the Association, it is important to consistently evaluate the demographics of the members and conference attendees. From previous years’ conference surveys (Tel Aviv 2021, Amsterdam 2022 and NYC 2023), we estimate that the attendees of the conference are overall:

  • ~60% men
  • ~70% white
  • ~50% from Europe, 25% from North America and 20% from Asia
  • ~45% 25-34 years old


We provide here a set of guidelines and advice for conference organizers, to help ensure the diversity in the organization of the conference.


3.1. Ensure diversity in the organizing and scientific committee

When setting up the local organizing committee and the scientific committee, we encourage conference organizers to consider the diversity of the academics participating in the committee. In particular, the ASSC recommends that the local organizing committee aims to:

  • Include as many women as men, according to the limitations of the hosting institutions 
  • Include some ethnic diversity, according to the limitations of the hosting institutions 
  • Include academics at different career stages (e.g., postdocs, junior faculty, senior faculty)

Regarding the scientific committee, the ASSC recommends that it:

  • Includes as many women as men
  • Includes some ethnic diversity
  • Includes academics based in different continents
  • Includes academics at different career stages (e.g., senior postdocs, junior faculty, senior faculty)
  • Includes academics from different disciplines, reflecting the diversity of approaches contributing to consciousness research

3.2. Ensure diversity in the scientific programme

The ASSC Board recommends that for all sessions of the conference (keynotes, symposia, abstracts), balance in terms of gender, ethnicity, geographical origin and discipline is carefully considered. In particular, we recommend that diversity in the sessions reflects or exceeds the diversity in the attendees of the conference in terms of gender, ethnicity and geographical origin.


  1. For Keynotes speakers (4-6 speakers), the Board recommends aiming for an exact gender balance. The Board recommends including keynote speakers demonstrating geographic and/or ethnic diversity. 
  2. For the Abstracts (Talks and Posters), the Board recommends collecting at the submission stage the demographics of the presenting authors (gender, ethnicity, geographical origin, discipline) for further analysis and consideration during the selection process.
  3. For Symposia (4-5 Symposia, 16-20 Speakers in total), the Board recommends that the organizers encourage diversity and inclusivity already at the submission stage, so that symposia organizers take this into account when planning their proposal. Find below an example of appropriate statement:“Proposals that merge various methodologies around shared questions are especially valued. Intellectual and demographic inclusiveness are key criteria for selection.”


The Board also recommends collecting at the symposia submission stage the demographics of the speakers (gender, ethnicity, geographical origin, discipline) so that data are available for subsequent analysis, as well as to inform the scientific review. Scientific selection should take into account these demographics, with the aim to meet or exceed the statistics of under-represented groups compared to the attendees’ population. Although the Board does not constrain the organizers in how to achieve this, the following strategies have been proven successful in the past.

  • Strategy 1: rank the submission according to both scientific quality and diversity (career stage, gender, ethnicity, geography), with the final score being the average of the two rankings
  • Strategy 2: require in symposia proposals a statement regarding diversity and inclusion, showing how the proposal addresses gender balance, ethnic/geographical diversity as well as a plurality in disciplines and career stages.
  • Strategy 3: add an explicit mandate constraining submissions so that symposia proposals are required to implement gender balance, and include ethnic and/or geographical diversity as well as diversity in career stage and discipline.


3.3. Collect statistics on attendees and speakers

As noted above, the issue of diversity and inclusion can only be addressed if evidence is collected regarding the statistics of members and conference attendees. Therefore, the Board recommends that the following data be requested anonymously for each attendee after the conference registration process:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Continent of origin 
  • Country of living
  • Ethnicity
  • Career stage: UG, PhD student, Postdoc, Professor
  • Previous attended ASSC conference
  • Discipline: Computer science, Neuroscience, Clinical Science, Philosophy, Psychology

The following template is provided for organizers to integrate into the registration process:

The Board requests that post-conference, the organizers provide the summary statistics of the conference attendees, as well as any other relevant anonymised data regarding attendees’ demographics for record keeping.


3.4. Board and President

The ASSC recognizes that the question of representation is crucial to truly address the question of diversity and inclusivity in science. In particular, it recognizes that it is essential that under-represented groups are given the opportunity to achieve senior and honorific roles within the scientific community, with the aim of increasing the visibility of minority groups. This applies to the composition of the Board and the nomination of the ASSC President. 

The ASSC is committed to making efforts to have a balanced representation within the Board’s and the President’s election. The executive director will ensure that a representative pool of candidates are nominated to join the Board every year by actively encouraging nominations from under-represented communities.

As a reminder, each year, the ASSC Board proposes a sole nominee for President-elect. Their nomination is approved by the ASSC voting members in the December elections. To reflect the demographics of the ASSC conference attendees and match the base rate of gender ratio, the ASSC Board proposes to aim to alternate every year between a man and a woman when selecting its President. Additional efforts will be made to consider other components of diversity in the nomination process.

These measures are open-ended and can be updated at any stage.


3.5. William James Prize

As a reminder, the current rules for the prize are as follows:

“The William James Prize is awarded for the most outstanding single published contribution to the empirical or philosophical study of consciousness. The paper must be authored by a graduate student or postdoctoral scholar/researcher who obtained a PhD or other advanced degree within 6 years of the submission deadline. The prize will be given for Theoretical and Empirical work in alternate years. Theoretical contributions include philosophical and theoretical/computational submissions. Empirical contributions should report analyses of original data and encompass behavioural, neural and/or clinical submissions. To encourage equal opportunity, the eligibility deadline for being nominated for the Prize may be increased to consider maternity leave or any other leave of absence post-PhD. For female applicants, an 18-months extension for each child born before or after the PhD award will be considered.”

 Despite adding a new rule for the prize taking into account maternity leave in 2022, the William James Prize has been attracting a low number of female and minority applicants over the years. As of 2022, over 11 winners, the Prize was awarded to a woman only 3 times. The recipients have been from the UK (3), France (3), US (2), Switzerland (1), Australia (1) and India (1).

The Board has agreed that new measures should be taken to encourage nominations of female applicants and increase geographical diversity. To that end, the WJP nomination form has been modified to simplify the nomination process and encourage the nomination of under-represented groups. In 2023 the nomination list included 12 men and 5 women, from mostly European countries. Although this is close to representing the statistics of the conference attendance, the Board believes that further steps need to be taken to encourage more nominations of underrepresented groups (“Meho L.” 2021,“Diversity in science prizes: why is progress so slow?” 2022).

To reach a more diverse pool of applicants, members of the Board will be continuously identifying potential papers and candidates during the year, with active invitations to potential nominees to apply. The Board also encourages the William James committee to shortlist the top submissions so that they match or exceed the diversity in the pool of submissions. Although the prize reviewing process should mainly focus on the quality of the paper (its impact, the groundbreaking aspect of the research, the contribution to the field), the committee is encouraged to consider the background of the candidate (career stage, career trajectory) including gender and ethnic background, when deciding between equally good candidates.


This document was drafted by Megan Peters, Jacobo Sitt, Lucie Charles and the ASSC Board.


Diversity in science prizes: why is progress so slow? (2022, June). Nature.

Gender bias in academia: a lifetime problem that needs solutions. (2022). Neuron, 109(13), 2047-2074. 10.1016/j.neuron.2021.06.002

Meho, L. (2021, November). The gender gap in highly prestigious international research awards, 2001–2020. Quantitative Science Studies, 2(3), 976–989.