ECR Net Zero Conference 2024 – Plenary 1: EDI (ECR Meeting Fund)

Mike Gorbounov (Brunel University London) and Ben Petrovic (Brunel University London) share their takeaways from Plenary session 1 on EDI at the ECR Net Zero Conference 2024.

The opening plenary session of the ECR Net Zero Conference 2024 kicked off with a bold choice of topic: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). While some attendees might not have chosen this session if it were one among the parallel sessions, making it the plenary proved to be a resounding success. It fostered a diverse range of participants and ignited discussions that reverberated throughout the rest of the conference.

The session led by Lennie Foster (ERA and C-DICE), Jessica Gagnon (University of Manchester), Marco Reggiani (University of Strathclyde), Claire Scott (IGNITE+ and University of Strathclyde) and Molly Westby (EDI+) provided a comprehensive overview of EDI. The speakers covered everything from foundational concepts, to real-life examples of inclusive (or lack thereof) design as well as offering potential strategies for addressing unfavourable behaviour.

Figure 1: Lennie Foster presenting at the ECR Net Zero Conference in Birmingham, 27-28 Feb 2024.

A particularly engaging aspect of the session was a group activity where attendees were tasked with imagining ways that EDI principles might be integrated into two scenarios. The first scenario looked at the design of an autonomous vehicle whilst the second was centred on the organisation of a conference on the topic of small modular reactors. Time was allocated to allow discussions for both scenarios. The depth and breadth of these discussions highlighted the importance of these exercises and the significance of diverse representation. After, Lennie went on to present suggestions put forward during previous events with many well aligned to our group’s suggestions! This convergence of ideas among ECRs from various backgrounds suggests a shared vision for meaningful improvement in both scenarios. Signalling a collective readiness to begin implementing these ideas in every part of our research proposals as well as work altogether!

Molly Westby then went on to introduce some extremely intriguing and new (for us) concepts, namely the “positive disruptor” and the “active bystander.” Briefly, a positive disruptor challenges the status quo to drive progress towards positive alternatives whereas an active bystander would look to challenge or intervene in situations where unfavourable behaviour or wrongdoing is observed. We were then provided with a template for action as an active bystander based on the 4 Ds – Distract, Delegate, Delay and Direct – nicely summarised and described by a handout also provided in Figure 2. These approaches are tailored to the diverse personalities of individuals but also the situation itself. The 4 Ds acronym offers a memorable framework for responding to such situations (granted there are other alternative acronyms but we like this one).

Figure 2: The 4 Ds of being an active bystander

Additionally, a comedic yet insightful YouTube video shared during the session offered further food for thought on effective intervention strategies. Overall, the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion plenary set a strong precedent for the rest of the conference. It showed us that EDI is not just a box ticking exercise but a vital ingredient for the just and sustainable future we ECRs are all working towards.