Finding Pathways to Equity – Recommendations from Society Publishers’ Coalition: Spotlight Interview

Anne Stone, SSP DEI Committee member| September 14, 2023

Erin Landis, Managing Director, Origin Editorial

Study after study shows stark disparities across the research ecosystem, including scholarly publishing. Effecting change is a daunting challenge that demands sustained commitment.  In their recommendations, colleagues in the Society Publishers’ Coalition (SocPC) offer six routes to inclusive publishing with many program ideas and examples. Erin Landis, Managing Director, Origin Editorial, introduces this 2023 guidance document and shares her inspiration for action in this interview.

The Interview

  1. What inspired you and your SocPC colleagues to provide guidance for journal publishers on equity, diversity, and inclusion?

In the summer of 2020, the global social and racial justice movement led SocPC to acknowledge that bias exists in publishing processes and policies, historically excluded individuals are underrepresented in all stages of publishing, and stark disparities can be seen through many lenses. At the time, I was Vice President of Publications at the American Gastroenterological Association and I felt moved to act yet overwhelmed by how to begin to make a difference.  I was looking for resources, and while there were many, it was overwhelming knowing how to navigate them or which to pursue.

SocPC is a member organization of over a hundred learned societies, community publishers, and charities. The collective experience and expertise of individual members is a great resource. Several of us met as a writing group based on our shared interest in DEI. The recommendations document is a result of our collaboration to serve journal publishers as a guide on their DEI journeys related to gender and race and ethnicity.  As the group was based in North America and Western Europe, what we included may not necessarily apply in all parts of the world. We couldn’t make the recommendations exhaustive – our goal was to create an approachable resource.

  1. How can these recommendations be helpful to organizations that are starting to build their DEI programs or have them in place?

There are so many ways to approach matters of DEI, and so much work to be done. The writing team first identified six categories to explore: Policies & Statements, Training/Education/Awareness, Peer Review, Processes, People, and Open Scholarship. Within each topic, there are myriad ideas to pursue. Journal publishers asking, “What can we do that would have the most impact?”, “How do we know how big of a problem we have with our journals?”, or “How do we demonstrate progress?” will find ideas for initiatives which can be simple or more complex to implement. Our document offers resources, tools such as the C4DISC Toolkits for Equity, and examples to meet journals “where they are.” Wherever your journal is on the path toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion, the recommendations guide will have something for you and your editors to consider.

  1. Since 2020, has there been any research to show progress in DEI across the research and scholarly communications ecosystem?

When we released the recommendations in June 2023, a landscape scan of published research on DEI in research and scholarly publishing illustrates that pervasive gender and ethnic disparities in research awards and employment persist. There is some evidence as to how these differences are reflected in researchers’ publishing outcomes. For example, a Royal Society of Chemistry analysis of 700,000 submissions, revealed bias against women at every stage of the publishing process. PNAS published research on 1 million papers from six publishers which found disparities for non-White scientists in editorial board representation, time spent under review, and citation rates, all of which potentially hinder research careers.

The research is not yet abundant, but society and commercial publishers are taking action. Over 50 publishers representing more than 15,000 journals are signatories to the Joint Commitment for Action on Inclusion and Diversity in Publishing. A steering committee was formed in July 2023 to guide a major undertaking to collect and analyze demographic data concerning authors, editors, and reviewers, as well as the authorship status and outcomes of peer review. This promising beginning will enable longitudinal research which can reveal the pace of meaningful change for research publication. For anyone building a bibliography of research on DEI in scholarly communications, I hope the references in the landscape scan will be helpful.

Within the scholarly publishing industry, C4DISC will publish a report in early 2024 with findings from the second Workplace Equity (WE) survey.  We anticipate interesting comparisons to the demographics and significant results of 2018 WE survey regarding workplace culture and inclusivity. With the support of C4DISC and people and organizations across the industry, we are excited to have 1,756 responses which are more globally representative than in 2018.

  1. What drives you to volunteer on initiatives including the SocPC Recommendations and C4DISC’s Workplace Equity survey?

I think I have always had an acute desire for people to feel as though they belong, are treated fairly, and have access to the resources and opportunities they need to be successful in whatever path they choose. I am an innately inclusive person and so when the events of 2020 transpired, my desire to do something within our industry was a natural extension of who I am as a person. I wanted to help affect change and the way I saw being able to do that was to get involved. I cherish the opportunity to learn from others as they grapple with these issues and believe that the best way to move our industry forward to is pursue the recommendations set forth in the SocPC document, as well as the many other efforts underway. I know we’ll stumble as we move forward, but I feel confident that even our missteps will help scholarly publishing become more diverse, inclusive, and equitable.

To read more from Erin’s dive into the research and background for the recommendations, visit Stark Disparities in Scholarly Publishing Persist–What Can Your Journal Do to Influence Change?

Please download the Society Publishers’ Coalition Recommendations for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiatives for Society Publishers

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