to support social justice
BMJ's Cat Chatfield (Research Integrity Editor, The BMJ) and Simone Ragavooloo (Research Integrity Co-ordinator) talk openly about how you can take small steps to support social justice.
Today, the world of science is not fair. We know that there are underrepresented groups in both science and publishing w1,w2 and inequalities are contributing to real disparities within our scientific communities.
We believe it is time for all journal editors to take action. We all must put equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at the forefront of our agendas and encourage our colleagues to do the same. Only by leading from the top, will you support others to also eradicate prejudice and discrimination. You can do this by making small but monumental changes, which will also help to protect the moral principles of your journal.
As one of the 30+ publisher signatories to the Joint Commitment for Action on Inclusion and Diversity in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC), BMJ are continuously scrutinising our own processes to minimise the biases in publishing that are apparent - whilst recognising that there is so much more that we all still need to do.
Where do journals and editors fit into the perpetuating cycle of social injustice?
Many of us might make the assumption that there is little impact a journal editor can make on creating more diversity in research. By the time a manuscript has been submitted to a journal, the work has already been carried out.
Now is the time to move away from this line of thinking, and instead, consider the research to publication process as a cycle. What happens at the end of the cycle has as much impact on the on start as it does on the outcome.
Take, for instance, the traditional “publish or perish” nature of STEM publishing: an individual's publication rate is likely to affect their career progression w3 and studies have shown that there is a disproportionately higher rejection rate for authors from underrepresented groups.w2, w4,w5
This is largely attributed to unconscious bias in the decision making and peer review processesw6 - both areas in which are directly within the journals and editors sphere of influence.
By not stepping in from the start, as a journal editor, you are contributing to social injustice through inaction.
This is your opportunity to talk openly about structural racism and other biases inherent in publishing and your field and this will show your editorial team that EDI is an important objective of the journal. Use this time to ask your team the following:
Lack of diversity of authorship is not something we can address overnight, but commissioning is one area where you as editors have the most direct influence.
The diversity of your editorial team has been shown to impact the diversity of both your peer review pool and authorship diversityw7.
You want to maintain a broad range of voices from ethnically and geographically diverse backgrounds.
To improve in this area, consider the following:
Finding peer reviewers can be a challenge in itself, but making the effort to diversify your peer reviewer pool can help with reviewer scarcity.
Another positive aspect of widening your pool is that it will actively showcase other aspects of diversity and inclusion initiative for your journal.
For instance, editorial boards with larger peer reviewer poolsw5 will illustrate their awareness of unconscious bias as they invite and select suitable reviewers.
Lastly, we strongly recommend appointing a lead on all matters related to diversity and inclusion. This is a quick and easy way to ensure the journal is progressing in its EDI goals. Such responsibilities can include (but are not limited to):
To learn more, join us at the Researchers to Readers conference on Tuesday, 23 February 2021, where Simone will be participating in a panel discussion on Inclusivity: Becoming part of the solution.
How publishers can help to improve inclusivity within academia
It is widely acknowledged that there are considerable diversity problems within the research ecosystem. As privileged and powerful players within that ecosystem, this panel session will explore the ways publishers are trying to make their products and practices more inclusive. This session will encourage delegates to consider the complex equality, diversity and inclusion challenges we all face, and aims to stimulate a supportive and collegial discussion to address some of those challenges to improve equity of opportunity for all.
We would love to hear if any of these above steps have had an impact on your journal. Do get in touch and let us know how you get on, or if you have any questions.