Big boost to academic diversity as 52 publishers standardize author data collection process
The Joint Commitment for Action on Inclusion and Diversity in Publishing, led by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), recently published a new set of guidelines for gathering author demographic data. The collective of 52 global publishers, representing more than 15,000 peer-reviewed academic journals, agreed to standardize questions used to collect data that highlights action required to overcome biases in scholarly publishing.1
In keeping with the objectives2 of the Joint Commitment group, the data on demographic diversity will help the signatories ensure equal opportunities for researchers regardless of their background, encourage the pursuit of a wider range of studies, enable better quality research, and allow for a more equitable impact of research outcomes in the society.
In 2020, the Black Lives Matter protests sparked questions about structural racism deeply embedded in society, including academia. Soon after, 12 global academic publishers signed up for RSC’s joint commitment to trace and fight bias in academia.2
While it has always been clear that minority groups are underrepresented in science, until now there was no measurement framework to investigate existing biases systematically and across different cultures. Holly Falk-Krzesinski, Gender Equity Taskforce and Vice President, Research Intelligence at Elsevier, explained, “If you don’t have the data, it is very difficult to understand where you are at, to make changes, set goals and measure progress.”3
To remedy this, demographer Ann Morning of New York University was consulted and a structured list of questions was developed to collect information on race, gender identity, and geographical ancestry, which would work across a variety of cultures. The questions were then tested through a survey of more than 1,000 researchers. While the move was welcomed by most scholars involved in the survey, concerns about how the data would be used emerged at the same time. However, Falk-Krzesinski assures that this data will be stored securely and will not be made available to peer reviewers.4
Falk-Krzesinski also explained that the standardization of such data and the collective efforts of publishers will prove invaluable as academia becomes a global community. “As a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, this is an important collaborative effort in service to the research community that took a global-first approach, which is especially important as we continue to see an increasing internationalization of research,” she said, adding “Our coordinated approach also means that publishers can continue to work together using a shared framework toward developing benchmarking capabilities.”6
1,2,3Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing. (2022). Retrieved 6 May 2022, from https://www.rsc.org/new-perspectives/talent/joint-commitment-for-action-inclusion-and-diversity-in-publishing/
4,5 Else, H., & Perkel, J. (23 February 2022). The giant plan to track diversity in research journals. Retrieved 6 May 2022, from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00426-7
6 Academic publishers collaborating in fight against bias announce key action on diversity data collection. (2022). Retrieved 6 May 2022, from https://www.rsc.org/news-events/articles/2022/apr/academic-publishers-collaborating-in-fight-against-bias-announce-key-action-on-diversity-data-collection/
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