Leading academic journals sign up to ‘minimum standards’ on inclusion and diversity

The 47 signatories publish more than 15,000 academic journals around the world and have pledged to improve the representation of underrepresented authors and publicly report on progress at least once a year 

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Joint Commitment for Action on Inclusion and Diversity in Publishing has announced minimum standards that have now been accepted by 47 global publishing giants. 

The RSC said it was the “first widely-agreed minimum standards for inclusivity in scholarly publishing”.

Twelve academic publishers signed the Joint Commitment when it was first agreed in June 2020 – since then, Wiley, Elsevier and SAGE Publishing have joined. Springer Nature, De Gruyter and Taylor & Francis are the latest signatories. Together, the 47 publishers produce more than 15,000 peer-reviewed journals across the world. 

Signatories pledge to integrate inclusion and diversity into their strategies, improve the representation of underrepresented authors, revise appointment processes for editors and publicly report on progress in publishing at least once a year. 

The RSC investigated 700,000 of their own published papers, concluding that the publishing process showed “systematic biases against women at every stage”.

It is only as a collective that we can address some of the greatest challenges, such as self-reported diversity data to help inform these actions
– Dr Nicola Nugent, RSC

Dr Helen Pain, chief executive of the RSC, said: “When we launched our Joint Commitment, we did so with the intention of making a far-reaching and meaningful change not only to publishing, but to the lives and careers of those people who may have been overlooked in the past through no fault of their own. 

“With so many of the major players in academic publishing joining this commitment, we are one step closer to making a lasting and global impact and ending the unfair discrimination that has held so many people back for so long. And everyone benefits, as diversity leads to better research.”

The RSC said its efforts to improve EDI have included changing the names on papers of “hundreds of researchers” – like married women and transgender scientists – to respect “their right to their own identity while ensuring they are credited for all their work”. 

Dr Nicola Nugent, publishing manager for quality and ethics at the RSC said: “After our investigation showed biases in our publishing process, which have also been observed by other publishers, we knew we had to take action. We developed a framework for action in scientific publishing to improve our own activities and, when we shared this with other publishers, the appetite to collaborate for the greater good was so encouraging. Since then, we haven’t stood still for one second.

“Alongside the amazing work of the group, at the Royal Society of Chemistry we have carried out a diversity audit of our organisation and now publish this annually, in the interests of transparency. We have been improving the diversity of our editor and reviewer communities, and we have updated editor training materials to raise the visibility of inclusion and diversity at every stage.

“But it is only as a collective that we can address some of the greatest challenges, such as self-reported diversity data to help inform these actions. The importance of the steps taken over the past year cannot be underestimated within our industry – but collectively we all know we must still do better.”

Read more: National Institute of Health Research announces open-access policy

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