Values and Inclusivity in the ACT Community

In the tenth and final talk of this spring’s ACT@UCR seminar, Nina Otter led a discussion about diversity in the applied category theory community, with these speakers:

• Nina Otter: introduction, and some potential initiatives

• Jade Master: Experience in setting up an online research community for minorities in ACT

• Brendan Fong: Statement of values for ACT community

• Emily Riehl: Experience at MATRIX institute

• Christian Williams: Quick overview of ACT server

This is a change from her originally scheduled talk, due to the killing of George Floyd and ensuing events.

The discussion took place at the originally scheduled time on Wednesday June 3rd. Afterwards we had discussions at the Theory Community Server, here:

https://categorytheory.zulipchat.com/#narrow/stream/229966-ACT.40UCR-seminar/topic/June.203rd.3A.20Nina.20Otter

You can join the conversation there if you sign in.

You can see her slides here, or download a video here, or watch the video here:

• Nina Otter, Values and inclusivity in the applied category theory community.

Abstract. Saddened by the current events, we are taking this opportunity to pause and reflect on what we can do to change the status quo and try to bring about real and long-lasting change. Thus, we are holding a discussion aimed at finding concrete solutions to make the Applied Category Theory community more inclusive, and also to reflect about the values that our community would like to stand for and endorse, in particular, in terms of which sources of funding go against our values. While this discussion is specific to the applied category theory community, we believe that many of the topics will be of interest also to people in other fields, and thus we welcome anybody with an interest to attend. The discussion will consist of two parts: we will have first several people give short talks to discuss common issues that we need to address, as well as present specific plans for initiatives that we could take. We believe that the current pandemic, and the fact that all activities are now taking place remotely, gives us the opportunity to involve people who would otherwise find it difficult to travel, because of disabilities, financial reasons or care-taking responsibilities. Thus, now we have the opportunity to come up with new types of mentoring, collaborations, and many other initiatives that might have been difficult to envision until just a couple of months ago. The second part of the discussion will take place on the category theory community server, and its purpose is to allow for a broader participation in the discussion, and ideally during this part we will be able to flesh out in detail the specific initiatives that have been proposed in the talks.

2 Responses to Values and Inclusivity in the ACT Community

  1. Blake Stacey says:

    Zoom demanded a software upgrade before I could join the meeting. This, of course, prompted a wave of petty irritation on my part — why can’t people get critical infrastructure software correct on the first go? — which I am riding into a more serious concern about the entire academic world centralizing upon a single mediocre product. Surely “monoculture is bad” and “flexibility is key to resilience” are lessons we’re smart enough to take to heart….

  2. Tom Leinster says:

    While I share Blake’s concern that it would be bad for the entire academic world to depend on Zoom alone, I don’t think that’s happened yet.

    At least, it hasn’t happened in my part of the academic world. Since the pandemic started, I’ve done video calls on (1) Zoom, (2) Skype, (3) Jitsi, (4) Teams, (5) Blackboard Collaborate, (6) Google Hangouts, (7) some other Google product whose name I can’t remember right now, and (8) Whatsapp. I’ve also had text chats on most of those platforms, plus also (9) Slack, (10) Zulip, and (11) I think some other thing that I’ve now forgotten too.

    Moreover, from where I am (and I’m sure people’s mileages vary), Zoom hasn’t won the battle for dominance since the pandemic started. I guess it’s hugely increased its market share, but the people I know are still setting up calls on almost all the platforms above. And Blake, it may encourage you to know that unlike some universities, Edinburgh refuses to buy a Zoom subscription because of Zoom’s poor security and privacy practices.

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