Diverse views on diversity in peer review

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Diverse views on diversity in peer review

This year, during Peer Review Week 2018, every corner of the scholarly publishing world will be abuzz with questions, conversations, and debates about diversity in peer review. The idea is to appreciate the importance of diversity and inclusion in peer review, understand if there really is a gap in the inclusion of researchers in the peer review process, and talk about various ways it could be bridged. Some topics that find their way into these discussions are the biases in peer review, the strategies used by journals to find peer reviewers, the reviewer scarcity issues, peer reviewer training, the inclusion of younger researchers as peer reviewers, and so on.

What an interesting range of topics! 

We spoke to an enthusiastic bunch of researchers and industry professionals to seek their views on this year’s theme. Specifically, we asked them a couple of simple questions:

What do diversity and inclusion in peer review mean to you?

How can journals become more inclusive?

Here are a few highlights from what they shared with us.

1. Emma Clayton – Journal Manager Frontiers for Young Minds

Diversity is about including young reviewers independent of background, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.

To me, diversity and inclusion in peer review means making sure that our Young Reviewers can be involved independent of background, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status. You can inspire children of all backgrounds to pursue careers in research and that diversity will flow upwards into the scientific community as they grow older; working with projects like Frontiers for Young Minds to disseminate research is one way that journals can help achieve this.

2. Carl Schiesser – Former Professor of Chemistry at the University of Melbourne and current Director of Seleno Therapeutics Pty Ltd.

We need to treat all manuscripts equally, irrespective of gender, race, or demographic.

Perhaps the best way to achieve diversity and inclusion in the journal peer-review process is to have the names and affiliations of the authors removed from the manuscript prior to review. This would immediately remove some of the inherent prejudices mentioned above. The other, and probably more effective practice, would be to ensure that journals each have a diverse set of reviewers, from gender, ethnicity, and demographic perspectives.

3. John Butler Adam – Editor-in-Chief of the South African Journal of Science (SAJS)

It's important to monitor change and to bear successes and failures in mind when filling editorial or reviewer positions.

Journal editors face a lot of challenges when it comes to maintaining diversity. What should they do? First, it's essential to know/acknowledge that there are problems -- and equally essential to be committed to addressing the inequalities. Then, it's important to monitor change and to bear successes and failures in mind when filling editorial or reviewer positions. Finally, it's essential to support new appointees where this is necessary. At the SAJS, we’ve always been strongly in favor of ensuring inclusion and maintaining a balance in our editorial staff and peer reviewer pool.

4. Kim Eggleton – Senior Managing Editor, IOP Publishing

Science gets better with diversity and it's part of our role as Publishers to ensure that diversity is allowed to thrive.

As my role looks after the Peer Review processes and teams at IOP Publishing, I'm particularly concerned with ensuring our author and reviewer communities are a fair reflection of the wider subject communities we serve. We've done some analysis recently to see how we're doing and look forward to sharing the outcomes during Peer Review Week. It's really important we're giving all voices a platform and not (knowingly or unknowingly) introducing any bias into peer review. Science gets better with diversity and it's part of our role as Publishers to ensure that diversity is allowed to thrive.

5. Nitasha Devasar – Managing Director, Taylor & Francis, India and South Asia

The stakes to grow and sustain diversity in research and its assessment are high.

The stakes to grow and sustain diversity in research and its assessment are high because a lack of diversity will fuel the build-up of existing homogenised hegemonies. Conscious steps to overcome unconscious biases are needed both by publishers and the societies and institutions where journals are housed.

The first step is to recognize and acknowledge that biases do exist. Diversity audits that look at gender, geographic representation, etc. by journals, societies, funders and publishers would be a good starting point. The other side, where publishers play a critical role, is to fill the supply gap in finding peer reviewers, in encouraging diversity in editorial and advisory boards, and in authorship. So, capacity building, awareness drives, and continual check and audits to assess gaps and facilitate progress can all be ways of increasing diversity in peer review.

6. Gail Schofield –  Marine ecologist at the Centre for Integrative Ecology at Deakin University 

Journals need to expand their reviewer pool and reviewers need to diversify their interests.

Today, the issue of reviewer scarcity is aggravated by the large number of journals and ever increasing numbers of papers submitted for publication. This is particularly problematic for handling editors, whose requests to potential reviewers are often rejected due to researchers being too busy or already reviewing too many papers. Needless to say, the issue needs resolution because reviewing is not an easy task. Diversifying the reviewer pool seems like the obvious solution. Thus, to me, diversity is about journals solving the peer review scarcity issue and training young and experienced reviewers to equip them with the necessary skills and standards required to perform high-quality peer review. It is also about reviewers being open to evaluate a wide variety of papers related to their field to diversify their knowledge and skills.

7. Jayne Marks – Vice President of Global Publishing at Wolters Kluwer

Journals should have a pool of reviewers that reflect their author base

In an increasingly global world of scholarly publishing it is important that we look to have a pool of reviewers that reflects our author base.  We want to see journals reaching out to different market segments for their peer reviewers to ensure that all our potential authors feel that the journal caters for their needs and interests.

8. Donald Samulack – President, US Operations, Editage, Cactus Communications

It is going to require a conscious effort on everyone’s part to ensure that the peer reviewer pool represents a gender-equal and geographically diverse population.

The industry data show that peer reviewer demographics are heavily skewed toward Western populations (U.S., Canada, and European countries), and are heavily weighting toward male reviewers. It is going to require a conscious effort on everyone’s part to ensure that the peer reviewer pool represents a gender-equal and geographically diverse population. By doing this in a deliberate manner, not only will we increase the overall number of peer reviewers (decreasing peer reviewer fatigue), we will ensure a global base of peer reviewers for the future (seeking to increase female, early-career investigator, and geographic diversity). In addition, by tapping into the eagerness of these scholars, we may actually increase the quality of peer reviews obtained.

9. A. Roxana LescanoDirector of Research Administration Program in Topical Research Centre of The U.S. Navy Medical Research Unit

The primary criterion for choosing reviewers should be their fitment for a manuscript.

Journals achieve diversity in peer review by including reviewers from various cultures and regions and highlighting the importance of local experts and locally generated information. Journals should include contextual reviewers in addition to scientific reviewers for journal articles – this refers to individuals who represent the study group, the area, the country, who have experience in manuscript review and methodology, but are not necessarily scientists and who may comment on the context or topic, but not necessarily on the science. The primary criterion for choosing reviewers should be their fitment for a manuscript. If there are eligible and relevant women reviewers in a journal’s pool along with male, journals should give them equal opportunities to review. Capabilities aside, there must be stronger efforts to cast a wider net in the developing world to seek out experienced reviewers who also have local knowledge. What is also needed is an effort to build new cadres of reviewers who meet the standards needed.  This takes practice and mentoring, and it offers a win-win solution, for journals and for developing scientific communities. So peer reviewer training should definitely be on the agenda.

10. Kristen Overstreet –  Managing Editor and Senior Partner, Origin Editorial

 

We must work to identify the needed “relevant perspectives” without bias or ignorance.

The work we do in peer review is for the ultimate purpose of enhancing and furthering knowledge; this cannot be done completely without including all relevant perspectives.  Diverse viewpoints from researchers, authors, editors, and reviewers, considered and applied appropriately to a manuscript, make that work stronger, contributing to the advancement of knowledge.  As editorial office, publisher, and society stakeholders, we must work to identify the needed “relevant perspectives” without bias or ignorance, so that our peer review processes truly improve the work entrusted to us to the highest level possible.

So what does diversity in peer review mean to you? And how could the scholarly publishing community ensure a more inclusive peer review process? Share your views with us. Leave your responses in the comments section below.

 

For more interesting views on peer review, follow our Peer Review Week 2018 series.

 

Related reading: 

  • Shining a light on editorial integrity
  • The scarce peer reviewer and challenges journal editors face
  • Accept, reject, or revise? Improving scholarship by improving peer review

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