2.7 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Scholarly Publishing

The role of both intentional and unintentional bias in society, including in scientific publishing, is receiving increased attention and discussion.1,2 Content assessed for publication in scientific journals, and articles eventually published, is not immune to bias. In fact, bias against individuals because of their race, gender, religion, disability, education, institutional setting, career status, sexual orientation, spoken language, and other characteristics remains a pressing issue in scientific publishing.3 Emerging diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) best practices are becoming increasingly important to promote equitable actions that advance diversity of disciplines, racial and ethnic diversity, institutional diversity, interdisciplinary fields, gender diversity, geographic diversity, and linguistic and cultural diversity.1 Adopting DEI best practices promotes and sustains a journal’s commitment to sound ethical decision making that can help shape publication processes with such tasks as peer review and editorial board appointments. These efforts can help assure the journal’s readership and the public of complete transparency.

Journals can take steps towards achieving the important goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion. In terms of diversity, journals should ensure diverse representation to provide feedback to the journal.4 Efforts should be made to go beyond familiar and often more comfortable representation to serve among staff leadership, external review panels, associate editors, editorial board members, statistics review committee members, guest editors, peer reviewers, subject matter consultants, and journal leadership and staff members. By ensuring this diversity of representation, journals demonstrate a conscious commitment to work against unintentional promotion of one view or perspective at the exclusion of others, which can result in disengaging
individuals and reducing participation by diverse key players.4

Journals should strive to achieve and maintain a commitment to advancing equity by proactively working to expand representation and thereafter listening and then implementing action steps in response to feedback from diverse persons (affected by a practice, program, and/or policy), recognizing the contributions of all volunteers and staff, and providing a range of opportunities for others to lead and participate in key decision making.4 Being just and fair by seeking feedback from a range of diverse persons helps to create open dialogue among various partners both internal and external to the journal.4 That feedback may include encouraging input on the journal’s mission and vision statements, identifying topic areas of publication interest and calls for papers, identifying individuals to serve as guest editors of supplements, refining the journal’s peer-review processes, developing manuscript guidance documents, and securing specialized peer reviewers.4

Journals can ensure inclusion by taking proactive steps so that a range of individuals are and will continue to be part of discussions that identify a broad spectrum of ideas and perspectives.4 Encouraging such participation and engagement may help journals prevent any one paradigm, belief, or perspective in the science and practice to dominate a journal’s decision making and, ultimately, the type of content it publishes.4 This kind of inclusion means that
journals will be more likely to innovate; can avoid a limited number of authors dominating the direction of the publication’s content; and can ensure a journal’s ability to revisit publication policies that may hamper sustained integration of DEI best practices.4

The following areas highlight some of the actions that can be taken to ensure DEI best practices and policies in scientific publishing:

  • Establish accountability: Publishers, organizations, and journals must hold themselves
    accountable to become educated on effective ways to advance DEI best practices. This accountability can be achieved by becoming familiar with DEI resources and by talking with other publishers, organizations, and journals about lessons learned along the way. Realistic DEI goals, objectives, and benchmarks to measure progress and opportunities for improvement should be established. Information collected to monitor progress should be transparent and used to provide updates to key individuals to include the publisher (if applicable), the journal’s readership, and the public.
  • Develop DEI-related guidelines on conducting, reporting, and publishing scientific content on diverse racial/ethnic groups: It is important that journals work extremely hard to ensure published content does no harm and does not convey disrespect. One way to avoid this harm is for journals to provide clear guidance to authors on reporting of race and ethnicity in medical and science publications 3,5 . Guidance to authors should communicate that the reporting of race and ethnicity in published papers must not be provided in isolation. Rather, reporting race and ethnicity should be accompanied by the reporting of other less acknowledged and less reported factors that contribute to shaping health outcomes. These less reported but equally important factors include sociodemographic influences and social determinants (e.g., forms of racism, disparities, and inequities). Recognizing and reporting on these contributing factors both acknowledges pre-existing theories on race and challenges incomplete and damaging pre-existing published critiques and perspectives on race.1
  • Publish intentional statement(s) to promote DEI in scientific publishing: Journals may be in different places with regards to the progress they’re making in implementing DEI principles in day-to-day practices and operations. As outlined earlier, DEI best practices cover many areas of the journal’s operations and practices, including the journal’s mission and vision as well as a diverse representation of perspectives in content expertise, racial/ethnic backgrounds, institutions (e.g., minority serving institutions), career status, sexual orientation, disabilities, and gender. In addition to these practices, journals should also be publishing content that rigorously explores and addresses health outcomes that go beyond individual characteristics of any one population or group to include the impact of racism, bias, and discrimination. One key action a journal can take to demonstrate a public commitment to these practices is to publish a statement. This statement should delineate the areas around which the journal intends to advance DEI principles in its publication practices and operations. The statement is usually generated by the publisher, organization, and/or journal’s leadership. Such a publication memorializes a journal’s commitment to transparency and can be used to provide updates on progress and on challenges encountered.6
  • Ensuring fair representation among editorial boards, peer reviewers, authors, and journal staff: There has been increased attention on who has a role in influencing or helping to determine which authors and articles are selected for publication.4, 7-9 For example, representation of women and people of color appears to have stagnated in recent years, despite an increased focus on racial, ethnic, and gender equity in medicine.7,10 Journals have an important role in making improvements by increasing the diversity of membership in their editorial boards and among their associate editors, authors, and peer reviewers. Achieving these goals will require journals to actively work to identify and secure participation of individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences who have the appropriate content expertise to serve in these capacities. This will assist journals with eliminating real and perceived barriers in securing diversity among key individuals (editorial boards, associate editors, authors, and peer reviewers).
  • Ensuring inclusive language in journal publications: There are several tools and resources that can assist journals in ensuring inclusive language is used in scientific publishing.11-14 This can assist journals with incorporating inclusive and nonbinary language as part of their publisher’s style guide and author guidance. Journals should become familiar with these resources and identify the most appropriate for use in publishing content in their journal. Using reliable resources on inclusive language is critically important for several reasons. First, inclusive language puts humanity at the core of a journal’s mission and vision 13 . Use of appropriate inclusive language expresses a journal’s commitment to recognizing everyone (authors, study participants, the journal’s readership) as being valued and respected. It also allows contributing authors and future authors to feel included, invited, and motivated to contribute work to the journal. Equally important is that the use of inclusive language conveys a journal’s pledge to achieving and maintaining its commitment to DEI. Learning about and using respectful, identity-affirming language are key to creating a welcoming environment that embraces the salient tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Collecting demographic data: Demographic data provide key metrics that make it possible to understand who is at the table helping to decide what gets published, including journal leadership and staff and the individuals authoring submissions. Examples of demographic data that should be collected and reported include gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, geographic location, institution/affiliation, sexual identity, occupation, military status, disability status, and career status (early, mid-, and late career).3 Collecting demographic data should be done on a volunteer basis and be purposeful versus superficial. To ensure trust, journals should clearly articulate to those from whom demographic data is being requested why it is being collected and how it will be used. Journals should also have an established and published privacy policy on how demographic data will be protected.
  • Acknowledging progress, and missteps: A journal’s readership may be the first audience to notice progress toward advancing DEI principles in a journal’s day-to-day operations, whether it be an increase in meaningful participation of diverse participants as guest editors or on editorial boards, or the use of inclusive language in publications. Along the way to achieving such milestones, there are likely to be mistakes made that will serve as valuable learning lessons. For example, a journal may be successful in achieving diversity on its editorial board but fail to create an inclusive environment. Another example would be a journal succeeding in collecting demographic data but delaying or not using the data to take action to address areas that require immediate attention. And finally, journals may release publications that unintentionally contain insensitive content, which is viewed as offensive, stereotypical, and harmful to the journal’s readership. To ensure transparency and build trust with their readership, authors, staff, and volunteers, journals should make it the norm to acknowledge not only progress achieved but also any missteps, including a sincere explanation of how and when missteps will be addressed and corrected.4

Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion best practices in scientific publishing will continue to evolve over time, and journals are encouraged to share lessons learned with one another. In addition, there are resources available to assist journals at various stages of implementing DEI-centered activities. The following two DEI resources may be of use to journals:

  • CSE Repository of Scholarly Resources on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: CSE has generated a compilation of guidance resources, documents and other materials
    providing information related to furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion in scholarly publishing in six categories6:

    1. DEI Committees of Trade/Professional Organizations in Scholarly Publishing
    2. DEI and Peer Review
    3. DEI Statements/Policies from Journals/Professional Associations/Publishers
    4. Bias, Discrimination, and Racism
    5. Data Collection on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    6. Inclusive and Non-Binary Language Communication.

These resources, documents, and materials have been developed by respected authorities and professional groups. These resources are by no means exhaustive. Visit https://www.councilscienceeditors.org/resource-library/diversity-equity-and-inclusion-resources/.

  • Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communication (C4DISC): The Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications was founded by 10 trade and professional associations that represent organizations and individuals working in scholarly communications 13 . C4DISC was formed to discuss and address issues of diversity and inclusion within our industry. Visit: https://c4disc.org/.

References

1. COPE Council. COPE Discussion Document: Diversity and inclusivity — English. https://doi.org/10.24318/RLqSoVsZ

2. Carroll HA, Toumpakari Z, Johnson L, Betts JA. The perceived feasibility of methods to reduce publication bias. PLoS One. 2017;12(10):e0186472. Published 2017 Oct 24. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186472.

3. Flanagin A, Frey T, Christiansen, S, Bauchner, H. Reporting of race and ethnicity in medical and science journals comments invited. JAMA March 16, 2021 Volume 325, Number 11, 1049-1052.

4. Jack L Jr. PCD’s Commitment to Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Its Scientific Leadership, Peer-Review Process, Research Focus, Training, and Continuing Education. Prev Chronic Dis 2021;18:210269. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd18.210269.

5. Flanagin A, Frey T, Christiansen SL, AMA Manual of Style Committee. Updated Guidance on the Reporting of Race and Ethnicity in Medical and Science Journals. JAMA. 2021;326(7):621–627.

6. Council of Science Editors. CSE Repository of Scholarly Resources on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. https://www.councilscienceeditors.org/resource-library/diversity-equity-and-inclusion-resources/.

7. McFarling UL. Even as medicine becomes more diverse, main authors in elite journals remain mostly white and male. STAT. https://www.statnews.com/2022/03/31/main-authors-in-elite-medical-journals-remain-mostly-white-and-male/

8. Gallivan E, Arshad S, Skinner H, Burke JR, Young AL. Gender representation in editorial
boards of international general surgery journals. BJS Open. 2021;5(2):zraa064. doi:10.1093/bjsopen/zraa064.

9. Espin J, Palmas S, Carrasco-Rueda F, et al. A persistent lack of international representation on editorial boards in environmental biology. PLoS Biol. 2017;15(12):e2002760. Published 2017 Dec 12. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2002760.

10. Topaz CM, Sen S. Gender Representation on Journal Editorial Boards in the Mathematical Sciences. PLoS One. 2016;11(8):e0161357. Published 2016 Aug 18. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161357.

11. American Medical Association. AMA Manual Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors (11 ed). Oxford University Press 2020. DOI: 1093/jama/9780190245556.001.0001.

12. American Psychological Association. (2021). Inclusive language guidelines. https://www.apa.org/about/apa/equity-diversity-inclusion/language-guidelines.pdf.

13. Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP). Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communication (C4DISC). https://c4disc.org/.

14. Council of Science Editors. Scientific Style and Format Update: Capitalize Racial and Ethnic Group Designations. https://www.councilscienceeditors.org/wp-content/uploads/Changes-to-SSF8-Style-Recommendations-10.20.20.pdf.

(Authorship: Leonard Jack, Jr, PhD, MSc, with assistance from Heather Goodell, took the lead in authoring this section on behalf of the CSE Editorial Policy Committee. This section was approved by the CSE Board of Directors on August 26, 2022, and it was added to the CSE Recommendations for Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications on September 9, 2022.)