Equality, Diversity, Inclusion

Many hands solving a puzzle
©fizkes - stock.adobe.com

Oberwolfach is a meeting place for researchers from all over the world. Each year, more than 2500 guests visit the MFO - people of different ages, gender, cultural and social background. Around 25% of our guests come from German research institutions, 40% from further European countries and 35% from other regions of the world. They share their interest in mathematical research and come with the aim to exchange current results and develop new ideas together. For at least one week people work and live together at our institute.

In addition to its role as host for around 2500 guest researchers per year, the MFO is also employer of around 35 staff members who service the guest researchers before, during and after their stay. Thus, the responsibility of the institute with regard to equality, diversity and inclusion is twofold. The options to implement appropriate measures differ between the two roles, which is also reflected in the descriptions below. Of course, we are also aware of our responsibility within the whole mathematical community and the public.

For reasons of quality control of our measures for equality, diversity and inclusion we strive for a regular certification by Total-E-Quality Deutschland e.V. After the MFO received the first “Total-E-Quality” rating for its engagement for equal opportunities in 2014 the certification was confirmed in 2017. In 2020 the institute was certificated both for its engagement for equal opportunities and diversity. Measures, achievements and requirements are also regularly discussed in the Scientific Advisory Board and the Administrative Council. For a direct feedback we regularly ask our guests and in particular affected groups of people on their experiences.


Measures concerning guest researchers

We believe that discrimination in any form undermines the principle of scientific excellence. Our aim is to initiate and advance new developments in mathematical research, by bringing the best and most promising minds together at one place. The decision to approve a proposal or an application is therefore solely based on scientific criteria by careful examination through the independent Scientific Committee.

Furthermore, we are aware of different surrounding conditions for different groups of people. Therefore, the MFO strives hard for creating equal opportunities for all guest researchers. Within the range of our possibilities we try to design our infrastructure and services in a way that enables all invited researchers to actually participate in our meetings, regardless of individual circumstances. In particular, our measures for guest researchers focus on the following topics.

Support for families

Having young children it might be difficult to organize a week-long or even longer research stay. Therefore, the Institute offers the possibility for parents to bring their children with them, depending on our capacity. We have a small number of rooms suitable for families and we can provide baby beds and baby seats for the tables. An accompanying person who cares for the children can also be accomodated. Alternatively, the Institute can help with finding and funding child support (baby sitting, child care arrangements), if necessary. We offer a variety of toys for different ages as well as a selection of children's books to borrow.

Support for people with special needs

We reduce barriers for people with physical disabilities. Our website is designed to be barrier-free. The entrances to the buildings are equipped with automatic door openers and a ramp. There is an elevator in the library and conference building and we have two barrier-free guestrooms. If an assistant or a nurse is required due to severe physical limitations, they can also be accommodated at the institute. On request, we can arrange for a regional medical supply store that temporarily rents medical products and aids required for care (e.g. nursing beds or wheelchairs, etc.). If a person can not travel to Oberwolfach due to certain disabilities we can also enable participation via videoconferencing tools.

Support for junior researchers

We provide a special page with all our offerings for junior researchers. In short, two out of the six main programs of the MFO address especially to junior researchers: Oberwolfach Seminars and Oberwolfach Leibniz Fellows. Junior researchers participating in other, weekly programs of the Institute can check if they are eligible for one of the grants covering travel expenses.

Consideration of individual biographies

With regard to the support for junior researchers we take into account that people may have different surrounding conditions for their academic career. Many grants require that junior resarchers did receive their PhD not more than ten years ago to be eligible for suppport. However, researchers who have for example periods of child care may need more time until they get tenured than others. Such periods can be taken into account by the MFO, if the requirements of our third party donors allow that.

Support with travel expenses in special cases

The financial resources that our research guests have for participating in conferences differs considerably between research institutions in different countries. In some cases it is not possible for people to fully finance the trip to Oberwolfach. We provide a range of programs for junior researchers in such cases. In particular, we invented the "Oberwolfach Foundation Fellow" program, financed by the Oberwolfach Foundation, for invited participants coming from places with insufficient support for junior researchers.

If, due to the individual circumstances, no funds can be claimed from the MFO's junior support programs, the association "Verein zur Förderung des Mathematischen Forschungsinstituts Oberwolfach e.V." can provide support. After request of the organizers of the meeting, the institute applies for a financial aid.

Guidelines and recommendations for organizers

In our proposal guidelines for workshops, we recommend that proposals should be made by mixed-gender organizational teams. Furthermore, at least one organizer must come from a research institution outside Germany. We ask the organizers to consider the entire spectrum of qualified people when proposing the list of participants. In cases where the proportion of female participants falls below the value that would be expected according to the usual proportion of female mathematicians an explanation is requested.

Invitation of networking activities

The MFO invites proposals for meetings with a distinguished networking character within the Workshop and Mini-Workshop program. While focussing on specific research subjects this special category of meetings is meant to include networking or mentoring activities in order to enhance gender and diversity, and to strengthen the impact of minorities in mathematics. Proposals for networking activities will be discussed and decided based on scientific quality and the networking concept at the same time but separately from the traditional Workshop and Mini-Workshop formats.

Data minimizing

The institute collects and processes personal data only to the extend that is nessesary to process an application or to organize a research stay. In particular, we do not collect any data on ethnicity, nationality, religion or sexual orientation. Gender can, but not nessesarily needs to be specified. The minimization of data is intended to help ensure that applications are only assessed on the basis of scientific criteria and blind to personal characteristics.

Offering meal choices

Types of nutrition are as manifold as people. Medical and religious specifications as well as individual preferences influence what people eat. The MFO takes that into account and since we want to enable all our guests to participate in the joint meals we offer a wide range of meal categories. Our guests can choose among a standard meal (including all kinds of vegetable and animal products), a vegetarian meal (excluding meat, fish and seafood; milk products and eggs may be included) or vegan meals (excluding all sorts of animal products). Further on, we can consider gluten- and lactose-intolerance.

Fostering communication

It is one of Oberwolfach's greatest values that scientists can establish new relationsships and create new networks here, even outside of their peer group. We actively promote this with the help of two longstanding traditions in Oberwolfach. The first one concerns the meals in Oberwolfach. Lunch and dinner are served at fixed times as joint meals. The seating order is randomized and changes for each meal. Ideally, a guest will meet a different, randomized group of five to six people at each lunch and dinner during a weeklong stay. In particular, this tradition proved to be helpful for junior reseachers who are at the beginning of their career and still have few contacts to established researchers of high reputation.

The Wednesday Hike is the second longstanding tradition in Oberwolfach, with which we foster the socializing among our guests. For Wednesday afternoon usually no talks shall be scheduled. Instead, the participants of a meeting walk to a nearby destination in the Black Forest. Very often we are told, that the informal conversations during the excursion helped to establish longlasting and fruitful new relationships between researchers.

Measures concerning employees

Around 35 persons work fulltime or parttime at the MFO in various divisions, such as scientific and administration management, library, IT, outreach and media, guest service and housekeeping. With regard to the main factors of diversity among our staff we focus our current equality activities on gender, age/career level, phases of life and disability.

Support for families

We promote a good familiy-work balance by offering different kinds of work time models and flexible working hours. Beyond that, we are always willing to find suitable, individual arrangements considering personal and job requirements. For example, if regular or temporary work from home is compatible with the kind of job we are willing to install a teleworking place. For parents who need exceptional care times for their children because of specific and mandatory working hours we can pay a financial compensation for additional costs.

Support for people with special needs

We reduce barriers for people with special needs. The entrances to the buildings are equipped with automatic door openers and a ramp. Offices and social rooms are easily accessible. If necessary and compatible with the kind of job we can also provide a teleworking place. We actively search for possibilities to rematch task ranges to one's personal physical and mental abilities, in cases where this is required. Employees who suffered longer periods of illness are supported through gentle reintegration programs.

Support for junior professionals

The MFO offers vocational training for housekeepers and for professionals in media and information services. Internships are possible as well. We promote our internships and vocational training offers at schools and explicitly encourage female pupils to apply.

Support for elderly employees

We offer parttime contracts before retirement for our elderly staff members who wish to have a smooth transition by reducing their working hours. Furthermore, we offer parttime contracts after retirement for people who want to continue to work and to contribute their many years of experience to the institute.

Promotion of training activities

The MFO highly values training activities of its staff members. All employees - regardless of age, division, tariff level or gender - are allowed and encouraged to regularly participate in professional trainings. Whenever possible, the MFO bears the costs of the training activities.

Recruiting activities

The MFO specifically addresses women in its recruiting activities. New staff members are selected with the help of systematic, gender-neutral, subject-oriented and qualification-oriented application procedures.

Fostering communication

Also among our staff members we promote a culture of community and mutual appreciation. For many years now - only interrupted by the Sars-Cov-2 pandemic - we maintain the tradition of having breakfast together every morning at 10 o'clock. Annual company outings and Christmas dinners are further community-promoting events.

Measures concerning the public

The MFO promotes the goals of equality, diversity and inclusion also in the public. In particular, we want to encourage women to send in workshop proposals. On our website and in our annual reports we publish interviews and statements of female workshop organizers and female researchers in longtterm programs who report on their experiences. Furthermore, the institute cooperates with a number of institutions in order to support a vibrant and diverse environment the MFO and to promote mathematics among young people. An overview on the institutions and how we cooperate with them is provided in our section for junior researchers.

Standards and guidelines for our work

Further organizations and platforms to consider