CAKE Principles: A Conceptual Framework with Actionable Tools for Fostering Community Equity in Academic Events

We provide four guiding principles that are concise, actionable, and will help make organising an inclusive academic event a piece of CAKE 🎂:

  • Connectivity: Is everyone seen?
  • Adaptability: Is everyone themselves?
  • Kinship: Does everyone feel like they belong?
  • Empowerment: Can everyone (and the community) grow?

Academic research and related events have long been seen as inaccessible and not designed to accommodate a diverse audience with varying needs. These events are crucial for career advancement, research sharing, and networking. However, their inaccessibility negatively impacts the careers of participants who cannot attend. Thus, it is essential that the event organisers address this inequality from the early stages of planning. Successful efforts are made to improve fairness and diversity, including ensuring disabled people can attend, using virtual event options and communicating in inclusive ways. More work can be done to assist historically underrepresented communities to access academic events.

We recognise that considerations for inclusion are broad and highly contextual. This means that not every event can cater to everyone and that some principles may not be fully implementable in all environments. In the spirit of open and responsible research, and the ethos of FAIR [1] and CARE Data Principles [2] more specifically, we provide four guiding principles that are concise, actionable, and will help make organising an inclusive academic event a piece of CAKE 🎂.

Connectivity highlights the importance of connecting with people and ideas at conferences. This involves creating opportunities for attendees to network, share insights, and establish meaningful connections. Interactive workshops, discussions, and networking opportunities can help to ensure that attendees are actively engaged.

Adaptability recognises the need for flexibility in planning and execution, as well as ensuring that content and networking are accessible and relevant to a diverse range of attendees. This includes providing arrangements, promoting inclusivity, and ensuring that barriers to participation are minimised. Create an environment where attendees and organisers can adjust their approaches and ideas based on evolving circumstances.

Kinship emphasises the cultivation of a sense of connection, community, and shared purpose among conference participants. This involves fostering a feeling of belonging and mutual support, encouraging attendees to forge meaningful relationships and collaborations. Actively welcome newcomers, solicit feedback, and provide avenues for involvement. Kinship highlights the interpersonal bonds and common goals that are nurtured through conference interactions.

Empowerment encourages attendees to take ownership of their learning and experiences. Provide resources, tools, and support that enable attendees to make the most of their time at the conference and apply what they have learned. This could involve follow-up activities, collaborative projects, or ongoing dialogues to ensure that the value of the conference extends beyond its duration.

The CAKE principles can be assessed through simple assessment by asking questions:

  • Is everyone seen?
  • Is everyone themselves?
  • Does everyone feel like they belong?
  • Can everyone (and the community) grow?

To implement the CAKE principle, we provide tools for critically assessing and successfully implementing actionable change within the organising of academic events.

Tools for Implementing CAKE Principles

The CAKE principles come with the following action-oriented tools that are based on the collective discussions and experiences of a diverse group of researchers who have collaborated to author a paper on inclusive academic events (link to the paper is coming soon!).

  1. The Academic Community Equity Index (ACE Index)
    The ACE Index is proposed as a starting point for the auditing of academic events. The Index is uploaded as .xlsx file to be downloaded. This tool can be used by organisers as a way of self-audit and making decision-making more transparent. This tool can also be used by participants as well as a way to score academic events to determine if they feel supported enough to attend. It is a simple binary scoring system, and the higher the score, the better the academic scores in terms of its commitment to inclusivity.
  2. Action Plan: The Action Plan details steps that can be taken to put the Rules into action. Please adapt the content and/or design/format of this sheet to suit your needs.

  3. Pre-event Questionnaire: This is an example of a pre-event questionnaire that can be shared with participants. These questions can be adapted for different events. The pre-event questionnaire should be shared with attendees who are likely to attend, and those who indicate they cannot attend anymore.

These tools are the work of ongoing development and we welcome suggestions in the way of GitHub Issues and Pull Requests.


[1] Wilkinson MD, Dumontier M, Aalbersberg IjJ, Appleton G, Axton M, Baak A, et al. The FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship. Sci Data. 2016 Mar 15;3(1):160018

[2] Carroll SR, Garba I, Figueroa-Rodríguez OL, Holbrook J, Lovett R, Materechera S, et al. The CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance. 2020 Nov 4;19(1):43.