There is plenty of evidence that Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and female scholars are underrepresented across academia (NCSES, 2020). However, it is difficult to assess how extensively this lack of representation might be mirrored or even amplified by scholarly publishing because of a lack of demographic data from research journals (Else & Perkel, 2022). Publishers are increasingly being critiqued by researchers for their inability to provide comprehensive accounts of the diversity, or lack thereof, within their publications’ editorial boards, peer reviewers, and author pools (Wu, 2020). Some researchers have begun to do their own demographic studies and are now pressuring major publishers in their fields to establish representative editorial boards (McFarling, 2021).
New efforts to gather demographic data
This pressure has paid off. In 2022, over 50 publishers representing upwards of 15,000 journals committed to asking journal editors, reviewers, and authors to declare their gender, race and ethnicity by responding to a standard list of questions established by the joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in scholarly publishing group, organized by the Royal Society of Chemistry (Royal Society of Chemistry, n.d.).
Collecting this kind of data can be tricky, particularly in light of differing definitions of gender, race, and ethnicity in different cultural contexts as well as cultural sensitivity about asking for such details in some countries. Self-reporting, especially in areas where there can be career or even personal safety repercussions can make it difficult to obtain accurate data that reflects how authors identify. And many of these data collection efforts do not include LGBTQ+ and disability reporting, additional areas where it can be crucial to understand representation and equity. Nevertheless, even imperfect methods for this kind of data will provide opportunities to identify areas where more work needs to be done to address issues of diversity in scholarly publishing.
Note: As mentioned elsewhere in this resource, the problems of inequity in scholarly communication live within a broader set of issues including institutional access to funding and resources, tenure and promotion practice, research assessment, etc. This resource is primarily focused on the issue of DEI in scholarly publishing, which is embedded in these larger, systemic problems.
Page updated: May 12, 2023