As discussed throughout this resource,  a lack of representation among reviewers, editors, and authors can limit publishing for, about, and by marginalized communities. This lack of diversity can result in a narrower body of literature that does not reflect the perspectives and topics of the broader community. It is also important  to consider the effects of the lack of diversity among the publishers who select, produce, distribute, and market scholarly works. Several studies in recent years have revealed that the scholarly publishing workforce identifies as predominantly white (up to 85%),  female (up to 76%), heterosexual (83%), and without disability (89%)  (Roberts, 2021), (C4DISC, n.d.). Additionally, despite the fact that publishing is a majority female profession, researchers have found that older white males more frequently advance to leadership (Taylor, Spilka, Monahan, Mulhern, & Wachter, 2020) and there is a significant gender pay gap within the profession (Page, 2020). 

Publishing business models

Most publishers have historically operated within subscription or sales models that require payment for access to publications. These business models situate research publications behind a paywall, resulting in limited access to research for those who are not affiliated with a subscribing or purchasing institution. More recently and under pressure from the academic community, many of these publishers are shifting their business models away from subscriptions and toward open access (OA) publishing, which enables readers worldwide to access publications without a subscription or any related charges. Many of these OA business models levy an Article Processing Charge (APC) for open access publication, shifting the cost burden from the reader to the author. Some well-resourced institutions subsidize these costs on behalf of their authors and/or encourage them to use grant funds to pay these fees. 

While this shift ensures broader, global access to research, it also amplifies barriers to publication: Many researchers from smaller or less-resourced institutions, poorly funded disciplines, and low- or middle-income countries don’t have access to funds to pay APCs, which limits their ability to participate in this form of scholarly communication.

Some publishers, including university presses and library publishers, are experimenting with alternative open access business models that eliminate or reduce publishing fees and support openly available journal and book-length publications through other, more equitable means, such as LYRASIS’ community funding models, Annual Reviews’ Subscribe to Open model, as well as open access monograph programs like Direct To Open (MIT) and Luminos (UC Press). 

Library publishers, in particular, focus on supporting the publication of “diamond” open access journals, which charge no fees either to publish or read, through institutionally subsidized platforms and services like UC’s eScholarship Publishing program. And, scholars increasingly are choosing to share their research openly via pre-publication venues such as preprint servers as a means of empowering members of broader disciplinary communities to make their work immediately and openly available in advance of and free from the gating function of formal publication (EuropePMC, 2023).

Bibliographic indexing services

Some bibliographic indexing services are owned by publishers. These services can amplify inequities through the selective inclusion and ranking of journals and the omission of large numbers of non-English journals as well as English journals based in non-English speaking countries (Bell & Mills, 2020 and Alperin & Costas, 2019). As publishing companies continue to grow and acquire such complementary service providers, their influence over what gets published and what is made discoverable increases. Where they control these services, publishers should consider the larger implications of algorithmic bias (Noble, 2018) and hidden inaccuracies in research databases (Reidsma, 2019) within the technologies that underpin these indexes. 

DEI best practices for publishers

Beyond considering equity issues associated with different publishing models and bibliographic indexing services, publishers should also consider adopting practices within their publications to increase the diversity of editors and peer reviewers, who effectively serve as the gatekeepers of scholarly publications and, by implication, of the research deemed worthy of inclusion in the scholarly record.

Works cited

What can I do?

There are many actions that scholarly publishers can take to diversify their workforce and adopt publishing models and practices that promote equitable and inclusive opportunities within their publications.

Effect change within the publishing profession with the following suggested actions:

  • Take steps to diversify the scholarly communication workforce and support underrepresented workers. 

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Page updated: May 12, 2023