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Tracking diversity in scientific publishing – a new global initiative


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A group of 52 publishers representing >15,000 journals will track the gender, race, and ethnicity of their authors, reviewers, and editors.
  • The collected data will be used to improve diversity in scientific publishing.

Minority groups are often under-represented in science, yet there is a lack of data on how structural racism and bias influence the content published in journal articles. In a recent Nature featureHolly Else and Dr Jeffrey M. Perkel outline journals’ plan to track researcher diversity and improve inclusion in scholarly publishing.

The initiative originated in 2020 with a group of 11 publishers, led by the Royal Society of Chemistry, who pledged to track and reduce bias in science publishing. The joint group has expanded and now includes 52 publishers representing over 15,000 journals around the globe, including the BMJ, Elsevier, Springer Nature, and Wiley. Its members agreed to ask those who authored, reviewed, or edited manuscripts about their gender, race, and ethnicity.

“Diversity data enable us to define where problems such as bias lie in scholarly publishing, put in place actions, set goals, and measure progress.”

Else and Perkel highlight that computational algorithms can only provide rough estimates of ethnic and geographical origin from names, and experts believe that the best way to obtain an accurate insight is to ask scientists to self-identify. The joint group’s standardised approach to collecting voluntary, self-reported diversity data was launched earlier this month. The questions cover race using 6 categories and geographical ancestry using 11 categories, allowing the respondents to select all applicable options (publishers are encouraged to include an additional “Self-describe”/”Other” option for both questions). The gender question asks the respondents to self-identify as a man, woman, or non-binary/gender-diverse individual. The answers will be collected through editorial management systems and stored separately with restricted access, so they will not be visible to peer reviewers.

The article includes opinions from researchers who see such initiatives as a first step toward dismantling systemic barriers affecting minority researchers and highlight the importance of acting on the findings by updating publishing policies.

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Would you be willing to disclose your gender, race, and ethnicity during manuscript submission?

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