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.
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.
- Antiracism Toolkit for Organizations from C4DISC helps publishing organizations measure and assess how inclusive their environment is, support BIPOC staff, and address organizational cultures that perpetuate bias.
- Antiracism Toolkit for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) is written by and intended to help BIPOC publishing professionals navigate and thrive in the scholarly publishing.
- The Editors of Color database includes a range of self-identified racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse individuals with editorial and publishing expertise.
- Library Publishing Coalition’s Roadmap for Anti-Racist Practice provides tools for building an anti-racist organization, community building, and supporting BIPOC library publishing workers.
- Support industry initiatives to drive positive change within scholarly research and publishing.
- Become a signatory to the Joint Commitment for Action on Inclusion and Diversity in Publishing, which aims to minimize bias in scholarly publishing (contact email@example.com to sign).
- Adopt the Joint Statement of Principles from The Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC) to improve and uphold diversity and inclusive practices.
- Sign the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Publishers Compact and acquire and promote content that aligns with the United Nations SDG goals such as equality, justice, and climate action.
- Assess your publications’ demographics; take action to increase representation; and set goals to measure your progress using publishing industry’s standardized questions for self-reported diversity data collection.
- Use guiding documents to map steps and decision points where diversity and inclusion can be improved in your publications.
- Refer to A framework for action in scholarly publishing from RSC to learn how to build a foundation of support for equity within the organization and implement changes in your publications .
- Use the Values and Principles Framework and Assessment Checklist for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from the Next Generation Library Publishing Group to check your organization’s adherence to agreed-upon values and principles.
- Create a journal diversity, equity & inclusion statement that states your journal/publisher’s principles and how you intend to create change. Examples: Georgetown Law Journal, and Wiley’s blog post on how the publisher is addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Have a plan in place for addressing publications that include offensive, unethical, or harmful material, such as offensive historical content. Example: The BMJ’s disclaimer wording.
- Adopt practices to attract and support a wide pool of authors, editors, peer reviewers, and submissions
- Assess the demographics of current and past editorial boards, reviewers, and authors. Adopt the publishing industry’s standardized questions for self-reported diversity data collection.
- Provide opportunities through surveys and focus groups with your stakeholders to collect identity data and feedback.
- Make room for new and diverse voices; support the development of niche and emerging disciplines; and welcome diverse content formats.
- Support non-English language content and use translation services for your website and content. Waive translation intellectual property rights in contracts if you don’t intend to translate the work.
- Adopt policies and initiatives that support and promote authors such as CRediT to define author contributions, ORCID iDs for researcher credit and disambiguation, and allowing authors to change their names after publication.
- Make your content accessible and follow universal design principles in order to accommodate a range of reader and author abilities and to optimize the usability of your site.
- Explore open access business models without author-based fees. Such fees can result in barriers and inequities for authors without the means to pay, even when they can ask for fee waivers or reductions.
- Define and communicate the responsibilities your editors, reviewers, and authors have towards inclusion and diversity. Provide resources to train and guide these stakeholders in promoting and supporting a more equitable scholarly communication environment.
- Inform your stakeholders about unconscious bias, its impact on scholarly communication, and how to eradicate it. Examples from: APA, eLife, Elsevier, SAGE, The Royal Society.
- Adopt a journal editors code of conduct across all journals to set expectations for addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Provide comprehensive guidance with actionable steps to journal and book editors such as APA’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Toolkit for Journal Editors, as well as topical guidance such as Elesevier’s toolkit for improving reviewer diversity.
- Integrate guidance such as the use of inclusive language into instructions for authors.
- Define and encourage inclusive research practices, for example APA’s inclusive study design and reporting standards.
Page updated: May 12, 2023