Inclusive language in community building: A recap of our Inclusive Sci Comm Symposium session and an opportunity to help refine a new glossary

Last week we took part in the 2021 Inclusive Sci Comm Symposium (ISCS21), and Katie and Lou hosted a session focused on using inclusive language in STEM community building. In this post, we offer a short recap of that session, and also highlight a new effort we’d like your help with: A glossary to help support community managers as they work to build inclusive, accessible, and engaging communities in STEM. 

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Supporting a conversation on inclusive language

As an organization, and as hosts of a 350-person community of practice, we are constantly striving to be inclusive. In fact, it’s the first of our five core values. While it might sound straightforward, creating a truly inclusive space (whether virtual or in person) requires intentionality and reflection, as well as paying attention to ongoing conversations and changing practices. In our session at ISCS21, we wanted to hold space for frank discussion around some of the words we use, particularly in a professional setting. 

To do this, and to do it well, we wanted everyone in the virtual room to be able to share their knowledge, and, importantly, make mistakes in the spirit of group learning. So, we used a game of our own devising, Lingo Bingo, to create a sense of levity, while also setting expectations for the session in our introduction (for example, the session was not recorded, we emphasized the learning aspect of the session, and we highlighted some of the ways these discussions can be uncomfortable). 

Our approach resulted in some interesting discussions, with varying perspectives highlighting how language can empower, evoke, and exclude. We also touched on the limitations placed upon professionals working in government settings, as well as the nuances of ownership and who is centered in a conversation or document. We’re grateful to everyone who attended and generously engaged in the session. 

Developing an “inclusive language in community building” glossary

To create our Lingo Bingo cards, we first had to begin the process of developing a glossary of inclusive language terms (without giving the game away completely, Lingo Bingo cards have words or phrases in place of the numbers you see on traditional bingo cards). We hosted a writing sprint with members of the CSCCE community of practice (a big thank you to Ellen Dow, Rayya El Zein, and Brianna Johns), and then refined the text as a team. 

In the second part of our ISCS21 session, we invited the participants to view the draft glossary and offer feedback or edits. Thank you to everyone who already contributed, and we plan on continuing this work next week in another writing sprint. If this is something that sounds interesting to you, please let us know ( and we’ll be in touch about scheduling. 

The glossary on inclusive language in community building will be published on our Zenodo repository when it is ready, and also included in a growing STEM community management glossary that we are working on for our website.