Fellows program

How to add Fellows to your conference

This document provides an overview of the processes developed to support the addition of the Fellows program at the 2022 IFAC Workshop on Cyber-Physical-Human Systems (CPHS).

We define Fellows as a group of researchers specifically recruited or selected to participate in the conference. Example groups may include first-time conference participants, early-career researchers, or members of historically-underrepresented groups in the research community, the latter of which may include women, underrepresented racial or ethnic minorities, first-generation college students, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, and others.

In adding a Fellows program at our conference, we were intentional about each step in the process, from advertising to evaluation, selection, mentoring, and inclusion. So we want to share our thoughts and processes with anyone who may be interested. This document is organized chronologically to match the sequence of steps you will complete.

We built on past successes of the Inclusion@RSS and NeuroMatch programs that provided scaffolding to broaden participation in the Robotics and Neuroscience communities.

Click here to download an accessible pdf with all of this document’s contents.

What makes a Fellow?

Who will be included in the program?

If you are considering creating a Fellows program, then presumably you have an identity group in mind that you want to include and support. We sought participants who identify as a student or early-career researcher and member of a historically-underrepresented group in our research community, the latter of which includes but is not limited to women, underrepresented minorities, first-generation college students, LGBTQIA+, and people with disabilities. You may have other priorities, but it is important to settle on precise inclusion criteria before going any further.

Disclosing the group(s) a participant identifies with was not required to apply or be admitted to the program, and we never asked for this information. We strongly recommend this policy because policing someone’s membership in any particular identity group is fraught and, anyway, none of our business – people have a right to privacy. We regard the possibility of someone abusing this policy as an acceptable risk to protect vulnerable members of our community.

How will participants benefit?

If you are reading this document then you may already have some ideas about what Fellows will do in your program, or the support they will receive, or the opportunities they will be provided. In any case, here are some ideas of our own:

  • cover or offset the cost of travel (see next section);
  • offer mentorship before, during, or after the conference;
  • offer guidance for participating in the conference;
  • provide an opportunity for participants to present at the conference, e.g. via lightning talks or during a poster session.

We implemented each of these in our program, so more details will be provided below.


This step is optional. However, obtaining funding is extremely valuable if the Fellows are to be selected from members of historically-underrepresented groups, as members of these groups are likely to have less disposable income than their peers, potentially making the cost of conference attendance prohibitive. Of course it is possible they have access to sources of funding other than their personal finances, but these sources will generally be provided at the discretion of other people or organizations. If you provide funding for participants, it gives everyone equal access to the program.

Fortunately, there are multiple potential sources of funding.

If your conference has industrial affiliates, they may be able to contribute – it can’t hurt to ask! This type of program is really a drop in the bucket compared to their profits ..

Any professional society that sponsors or is affiliated with the conference may have funds available.

But another excellent possibility is obtaining a conference grant from NSF. The details of availability for these grants varies with program, so we recommend reaching out to your cognizant program officer. We are grateful for the NSF grant we received to fund our program.

If you pursue the NSF route, you will prepare and submit a proposal using the usual process. The project description will of course be much more brief than a research proposal, but it pays to take it just as seriously as your other endeavors and submit a well-crafted document. The good news is that this document provides a lot of useful inspiration to help you write your own proposal, as we consider the many facets of the endeavor and provide (in our opinion) well-reasoned approaches to each.


We made announcements through the following channels:

  • local and national chapters of affinity groups;
    • American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)
    • National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
    • Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE)
    • Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)
    • Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
  • social network and web sites of conference organizers and advisory board members;
  • direct messages to contacts at minority-serving institutions (MSI) by workshop organizers and advisory board members;
  • lists of authors of accepted papers.

One thing we wish we’d done is add a prompt to the application form asking how the applicant heard about the program – collecting this information should inform future efforts.

In addition, the conference website included a top-level navigation link to a Fellows page with the following content:

Click here to access the Fellows web page


We created an application form with the following prompts. Some of these were informed by our funding source (NSF only funds researchers affiliated with US institutions).

Note that we list the selection criteria – this is important for two key reasons. First, listing the criteria on the application page forces you to think through and commit to those criteria prior to receiving any applications (so there is no risk of adjusting the criteria based on the applications received). Second, relying on applicants to guess what information may be valuable to you will privilege those with higher cultural capital. Listing the selection criteria levels the playing field.

Please use this form to apply to the CPHS 2022 Fellows program, which will reimburse travel and registration costs for approximately 10 students and early-career researchers from historically-underrepresented groups affiliated with US institutions to participate in the meeting.

You are in the best position to determine whether you identify as a student / early-career researcher and member of a historically-underrepresented group in your research community, the latter of which includes but is not limited to women, underrepresented minorities, first-generation college students, LGBTQIA+, and people with disabilities. You will not be expected or required to declare the group(s) you identify with to participate in the Fellows program.

We encourage folks to apply regardless of whether they are co-author on a paper accepted for publication at the meeting – our intention is to help broaden participation in the community in this and future years.

For transparency, the selection criteria we will use are: financial need; institutional affiliation; potential benefit to applicant; and potential benefit to CPHS community. Our primary goal is to incorporate people who do not currently identify as being a part of the CPHS community but are in adjacent areas of research (e.g., neuroscience, neuroengineering, health, human-computer interaction, accessibility, etc.) who may be interested in participating.

  • What is your current research position? e.g. undergraduate student, graduate student, postdoctoral researcher, faculty, industry researcher [short answer]
  • What is your current research affiliation? e.g. name of university and department, government agency, private company, or non-governmental organization (PLEASE NOTE that our funds are only available to researchers affiliated with US institutions) [short answer]
  • Do you identify as a member of a historically-underrepresented group in the CPHS community? e.g. including but not limit to women, underrepresented minorities, first-generation college students, LGBTQIA+, and people with disabilities and/or chronic conditions [yes/no]
  • Are you listed as a co-author on a paper accepted for publication at the meeting? If yes, please provide paper title(s) – separate multiple titles with a semicolon. (Co-authorship on an accepted paper is not a requirement for the Fellows program – providing this information will not affect the probability that you are selected as a Fellow.) [short answer]
  • Please state whether you expect to travel to [conference location] by plane, train, or car, and your expected origin and destination city/cities. (These expenses are the most variable, so providing this information will help us with budget estimates – providing this information will not affect the probability that you are selected as a Fellow.) [short answer]
  • Please describe any other sources of travel funding, e.g. research mentor(s) and/or institutional support that can pay for you to attend the meeting. (NOT self-pay / from your own personal funds.) [short answer]
  • Please provide a link to your resume, CV, and/or professional website. (If you haven’t created these before: we have guidance on the Fellows web page, and an example / template is available TODO.) [short answer]
  • Please provide the contact information for your research mentor(s) or advisor(s), if applicable – separate multiple people with a semicolon. [short answer]
  • Please provide a brief statement describing how participating in the Fellows program may benefit you and/or your research (a paragraph is sufficient), particularly if participation would help you overcome any financial or institutional barriers to participation. [short answer]


We set a priority deadline for applications, but continued to accept applications on a rolling basis in case we had sufficient funds to consider accepting more applicants.

Eligibility requirements were stated clearly on the website and application form. We established an evaluation rubric prior to accepting any applications, and we specified the evaluation criteria to applicants so they would know exactly what information to provide. The selection criteria we considered were:

  • financial need;
  • institutional affiliation;
  • potential benefit to applicant;
  • potential benefit to CPHS community.

We evaluated each criterion on a {-1, 0, +1} scale, where +1 indicates a strong or favorable response, -1 a weak or unfavorable response, and 0 neutral. For instance, people with low personal income (e.g. students) and no professional funding (e.g. unaffiliated with a lab, or their lab has a funding gap) have strong financial need. People from minority-serving institutions or primarily undergraduate institutions have favorable institutional affiliation.

Two experts evaluated each application and their evaluations were pooled to make final selections. In our case, we were able to admit 13 applicants into our program, as the travel estimates we obtained from the travel questions in the application form assured us that we had sufficient funds for all.


Our approach to mentorship was multifaceted: we

  1. matched Fellows with mentors and encouraged them to meet with before, during, and after the conference;
  2. organized orientation meetings in the week leading up to the conference;
  3. wrote a Handbook to introduce Fellows to the community.

We go into more detail about each element below.

Matching mentees with mentors

We asked established members of our community to volunteer as a mentor – this request was sent to members of the organizing and steering committees, and we asked those people to send the request on to good mentors they thought would be available and interested.

Example of an email we sent:

Folks on the CPHS 2022 Organizing Committee (at US institutions),

We are writing to request your help with advertising the CPHS Fellows program, which will provide travel grants and other support to help people from historically-underrepresented groups at US institutions participate in this year’s CPHS meeting.

Please share the following link with information for prospective Fellows to anyone you think may be interested, and please encourage them to share along: [link here]

Also, please consider volunteering to serve as a Mentor for the Fellows by filling out this form (< 3 hours total time commitment) – feel free to share the link with anyone you think may be a good Mentor (PhD holders preferred, but outstanding senior PhD students also welcome): [link to form here]

Note the key eligibility criteria for Fellows are as follows:

  • self-identify as a member of a historically-underrepresented group in their research community;
  • currently affiliated with a US institution.

The priority deadline for applications is Fri Oct 21 (anywhere on Earth), but applications will be accepted until all the funds are committed.

Example of the mentor form we used:

Please use this form to sign up to serve as a Mentor for participants in the CPHS 2022 Fellows program, which will reimburse travel and registration costs for approximately 10 students and early-career researchers from historically-underrepresented groups affiliated with US institutions to participate in the meeting – more information is available here: https://www.cphs2022.org/fellows/

Since we expect Fellows will not have an established professional network in the CPHS community, we want to match them with a Mentor who can help answer questions and make connections. (We will also organize an Orientation and create a Guidebook to help support Fellows and other new community members.)

Mentor responsibilities and time commitment (< 3 hours total per mentee):

  • meet with mentee before CPHS;
  • meet with mentee during CPHS;
  • connect mentee with other folks at CPHS (particularly faculty and other more senior researchers).

Our primary goal in establishing the Fellows program and connecting participants with Mentors is to incorporate people who do not currently identify as being a part of the CPHS community but are in relevant areas of research (e.g., control theory, human-robot interaction, neuroscience, neuroengineering, health, human-computer interaction, accessibility, etc.).

  • Your email
  • Your preferred name
  • Your preferred pronouns (see https://pronouns.org/ for more information)
  • Your current position and institutional affiliation
  • Do you plan to attend CPHS 2022 in person? (preference will be given to in-person Mentors)
    • yes
    • no
    • maybe
  • How many mentees can you support at CPHS 2022?
    • 0 mentees (I just want to express my support for the program!)
    • 1 mentee
    • 2 mentees
    • more than 2 mentees (but note that we do not expect to assign more than 2)
  • Please provide keywords and/or a website link we can use to get a sense of your research interests or areas of expertise (we will endeavor to match Mentors and Mentees with similar interests)

After recruiting a pool of mentors, your task is to match mentors with mentees. We tried to take into account relevant factors like institutional affiliation (it is better to match mentees with mentors at other universities), research areas, or self-identification with shared identity groups. We were able to keep the mentorship load low, with each mentor connected with only 1 or 2 mentees.

Example of the email we sent to connect mentors and mentees:

Hi [mentee] (she/her/hers), [mentor] (they/them/their),

I’m writing to connect you two as a mentor-mentee pair for the CPHS Fellows program!

With a little over a week remaining before the start of the meeting, I hope you may be able to touch base for a quick discussion and/or make plans to connect in-person at the conference.

As a reminder, the goal of pairing Fellows with Mentors is to welcome the newcomer into the community, answer any questions they may have about the conference, and suggest or facilitate connections with other folks they may benefit from meeting.

If nothing else, there’ll be at least one familiar face at the conference!

Let me know if you have any questions or hit any snags, otherwise feel free to take me off the email exchange,


We polled selected Fellows about their availability in the week preceding the conference and scheduled 1-hour orientation sessions. These sessions helped introduce the Fellows to one another so they would see some friendly faces when they arrived, and provided an opportunity to ask questions. We provided the handbook described in the next section prior to these sessions, which helped to preempt some questions and clarify others.

Handbook for conference attendees

This text will be repeated in the handbook below, but it captures exactly what we wish to say:

The point of creating a document like this is to lower barriers to entry in our research community. A secondary goal is to help create the kind of community we are excited and proud to support. By proactively answering common questions and codifying hidden curriculum associated with the meeting, we aim to reduce the stress and increase the value of attending.

Click here to access the handbook.

Inclusion of Fellows

The multi-faceted approach to mentorship described previously goes a long way toward introducing Fellows to the conference and integrating them into a community that welcomes and values them – all key aspects of inclusivity. But it is also valuable to incorporate Fellows directly into the technical agenda.

To that end, we set aside time in the program for a series of lightning talks from Fellows. Our meeting was relatively small (on the order of 100 participants) and single-track, so including this session meant that the fellows had an opportunity to introduce themselves to almost everyone at the conference. The lightning talk could focus on the Fellow’s research, but could just as easily focus on their research interests, goals for attending the conference, or future career plans – whatever they decided would be most useful for them to present to the community.

We did not require Fellows to give a lightning talk, and indeed a few declined; the primary reason for opting out seemed to be that they were very early in their career and nervous about presenting. Perhaps the latter could be addressed with more mentorship, but we were not prepared to intervene.

The lightning talk session was deliberately scheduled immediately after the plenary talk that opened the meeting, both to ensure good attendance (we had a high-profile and dynamic plenary speaker) and to introduce the Fellows as early as possible so other attendees could recognize them.

An alternative to lightning talks would be a poster session, either one that is standalone or integrated with an existing session. Or why not both?

Inclusion of everyone

In addition to the mentorship and inclusion approaches for Fellows described previously, we have several recommendations applicable to general aspects of conference organization that are particularly important if the goal is to create a space and event that is more welcoming to people from historically-underrepresented groups.

Use preferred names and pronouns

This is easy and very helpful: ask participants for their preferred name and pronouns and employ these everywhere they are appropriate, e.g. on name tags, in the program agenda. The best practice would be for conference leadership (organizing and steering committee members and other senior members of the community in attendance) to get in on this by, for instance, making it clear how they wish to be referred to by conference participants, and clarifying preferred pronouns when speakers and panelists are introduced.

Accommodate all bodies

Consider the accessibility of your space and event. Ask everyone – participants, invited speakers, support staff – if they require any accommodations. Recognize that disability and illness take many forms, and try to preemptively provide accommodations. Is the space navigable in a wheelchair or while walking with a cane (for sight or support)? Does anyone need an interpreter for sign or other languages? Are there regular breaks in the technical program that permit recovery from fatigue? Do you require or expect attendees to engage in strenuous exercise? Provide private space for pumping breast milk.

Establish and enforce a code of conduct

It is naive to think that inappropriate behavior will not occur. So consider the likely possibilities and plan for how to respond. Be proactive about describing appropriate and inappropriate behavior to attendees so they will know when something is wrong. Provide a point-of-contact attendees can bring issues to. Provide another point-of-contact in case the first is the problem. Be careful when providing alcohol or other mind-altering substances – maybe just don’t?

Consider requiring attendees to attest that they will follow a code of conduct when they register. While it may not deter people from inappropriate behavior, doing this will make it easier to enforce consequences if/when issues arise.


This handbook was created for CPHS 2022 by Sam Burden and Momona Yamagami.


You are welcome to share and adapt this handbook using the Creative Commons v3.0 license.

Final thoughts

We hope you find this document useful, and would love to hear from you as you develop and implement your own program!