Wednesday 29 September 2021

Research and Researchers in the time of Covid-19: Part II

What the researchers say

By Mridul Saxena and Alison McGonagle-O’Connell, MPS/HighWire Marketing.

HighWire is the Awards and Bronze sponsor for the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021

In our first post, we shared an outline of the presented research. This included a summary of researchers’ responses within the ethnographic interviews conducted. The comments shared highlighted the issues, challenges, and changes observed by them. 

In this post, we recap and summarize the key comments and subject areas covered by our panel engaging publisher-side discussants with a subset of the researchers interviewed. The topics range from open access, preprints, peer review, choosing a journal, article discovery, changes in review processes due to the pandemic, and some specific questions to the publishers.

The Panel Participants

  • Richard Sever (Co-founder of bioRxiv and medRxiv, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)
  • Michelle Phillips (Open Research Product Manager, British Medical Journal)
  • Claire Moulton (Publisher, Company of Biologists)
  • Danielle Mai, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering, Stanford University
  • Samantha Andrzejaczek, Postdoctoral Scholar, Biology Department (Hopkins), Stanford University
  • Ben Callahan, Computational Biologist, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University
  • Eva Fischer, Assistant Professor of Biology at University of Illinois
  • Roman Ellerbrock, Postdoctoral Scholar, Chemistry Department, Stanford University. 

Question: If the fee was out of the equation, does that really increase the enthusiasm for Open Access (OA) publishing, and secondly, are you aware of some of the publisher-led initiatives around things like read and publish agreements that aim to shift the cost burden to make it easier for authors to publish OA?

Danielle Mai, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, said she believes that removing fees alone won’t change her behaviour. “I don't think that removing the fee helps me push towards open access, for me the case is when I would want to publish open access if a funding agency requires it,” said Mai.

Meanwhile, Eva Fischer, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Illinois, strongly supports the idea of OA but believes that the cost is ‘a pretty big thing’ when it comes to OA publishing. She believes that OA helps people in countries where libraries do not have enough resources to fund subscriptions to content. At the same time, Eva thinks that the fees levied on authors to publish OA are too high, as she prefers to use funds to support the graduate students in their work directly.

Roman Ellerbrock, Postdoctoral Scholar, Chemistry Department, Stanford University, agrees with Eva’s point on the accessibility of OA for less-privileged universities and Ph.D. students who could not afford fees for journals. He supported his thoughts by sharing a personal experience, “Ph.D. students from one of Argentina’s universities were forced to either use open access content, or somehow get access to the journals, otherwise they couldn't pursue the research, and this was, actually, for me, the time when I started thinking about it, and tried to push towards this”.

Richard Sever, Co-founder of bioRxiv and medRxiv, Cold Spring Harbor Labs, elucidated the panel on other different routes for OA. He explained, “paying for the article is the gold open access, there are a small number of journals for which you don't have to pay, and then there's a very large number of journals that allow you to, essentially, archive the author manuscript, and this was the basis for the NIH [National Institutes of Health -US] policy.” 

Ben Callahan, Computational Biologist, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, prefers to publish OA and is willing to pay fees on the condition of availability of funds. He supported his comments saying, “because I consider that posting a submission, or even post revision preprint, and having it up on PubMed six months later is sort of acceptable for me, in terms of access to people all around the world.”

Question: In terms of OA journals, what does overall impact mean to our researchers? 

Samantha Andrzejaczek, Postdoctoral Scholar, Biology Department (Hopkins), Stanford University, said, “I often go to a journal where papers I’m referencing in that certain paper have been publishing.” She then prefers to share her work on Twitter and certain Facebook groups. She measures her impact in terms of how much it is shared around. Supporting her thoughts, she reiterated, “I’m thinking of ‘how can I get it out to the people that are going to benefit from this paper?”

Roman believes that peers also play an important role in deciding on impact factors. He would talk to his professor and the other Ph.D. students to rank the different journals, and based on the responses, he creates a ranking in his head. He manifests his comments by adding, “it's just like a network that builds somehow, and then you have a hierarchy and if you think about publishing a paper in a top journal, and if it doesn't work, you just go down this ladder until you get it published.”

Eva prefers to choose a journal based on its community and whom she wants her paper to be read by. Meanwhile, she also advocated the idea of advertising the paper on social media platforms, “journals should think about what they are doing social media-wise, because people are using that to find articles.”

Danielle supports the idea of reaching out to more people faster. For her, the critical measure of impact is how quickly a journal is known for publishing, whereas Samantha prefers to have a smooth review process and a lot of communication to decide the impact. She concluded by saying, “there's a discussion between the reviewers and the authors, and I appreciate the fact that their reviewer names get published next to the paper. I think it makes people more accountable to what they're saying.”

Question: How do you feel about the open peer review and being named as the peer reviewer of an article?

Benjamin is not appreciative of the fully open peer review process and declined to participate in any of these. He supported his opinion by saying, “I don't believe that you can give the same kind of review when your name is eventually published on that review. You will be less critical for fear of retaliation; you will be positive for reasons of building a positive image in their mind.” But he supports the idea of authors responding to peer reviews without naming the reviewers or if the reviewers want to reveal their names to the author.

Roman believes that there should be a level of uncertainty regarding reviewer identity because in some cases it can become very hard to collaborate with some people in the future, whereas Samantha prefers to have a choice. She is comfortable having her name published alongside her review only for manuscripts that correspond to her expertise. 

Danielle feels skeptical that a fully open peer review would pressure a reviewer to write nice reviews, yet she does feel that the accountability built in to ‘open’ could help the reviewer in considering everything more stringently. She, like Samantha, is open to having her name published as a reviewer but only for manuscripts where she feels comfortable with doing the review.

Acknowledging Danielle’s thoughts, Benjamin thinks that options are fine, but these options also have some potential problems. He underscored his remark by saying, “if I reviewed a paper that I thought was quite good, I might feel very comfortable signing my name to that review, and also thinking about my future relationship, whereas if I gave a critical review, then my comfort level goes away.”

Richard brings an interesting fact to the table with his mention, “the tenured older males are more comfortable putting their names on the reviews than the untenured, underrepresented minority: females.” He further said, “it's not really about the immediate recrimination people always couch this in the notion. It's about the fear that this person may do something to you in the future, and you will never know about it because careers go on for decades.”

Eva believes that the options do have their pros and cons, but thinking about the unseen scenarios in the future where someone is holding a grudge against you for your past reviews is scary. She affirmed her view saying, “I stand by my reviews, but I will confess, I don't feel comfortable signing them.”

Question: Are you getting more focused or narrow in your discovery because of things like Twitter and new approaches to article discovery? What can we do to encourage younger researchers to read papers thoroughly?

Eva openly admits she is not an avid Twitter user, but she likes the personalization feature on the social media platform and credits it with providing useful reading recommendations. 

Danielle likes the ‘do you want to read it first’ feature on Twitter. She thinks that Twitter notifications and following researchers on Twitter have broadened her scientific sphere beyond the table of contents. Tailoring the feed feature is very useful for her in hiring postdoc students from underrepresented backgrounds. While using Twitter features to her advantage, she prefers to keep Google Scholar notifications fairly broad.

Benjamin prefers the option to focus his feed on the tweets of the people he follows to cut out unnecessary noise on Twitter. Meanwhile, he has stopped using Twitter during the pandemic because of too much noise.

Samantha credits Twitter with helping her broaden her information circle. Being active on Google Scholar, she said, “I’ve seen everything by the time it comes through on Twitter itself.”

Eva also pointed out the specific problem of filtering out targeted information from the wealth of broader information available. Supporting her views, she opined, “I would just point out that ever since the invention of the printing press, there are people writing articles about the information overload, and there's too much of this, and this happens every 50 years as somebody claims that there's a massive technology change and that is now creating so much information nobody can filter.”

Question: Thoughts on preprints and the future possibility of peer review occurring partially or fully on preprints?

Benjamin believes that there are some rare cases where people post their reviews on preprints. He further suggested, “unless there's some structure that makes people responsible for reviewing a preprint, it's just not going to happen for, like, 95 percent of all papers.”

Richard agrees. He shares that, in actual fact,  95 percent of preprints are not reviewed, and calls for thinking about this factor more broadly to tackle this issue. He believes that there is also a cultural shift, and there is a sort of discussion going on this issue, but funneling it down is a real challenge. He added, “some journals are moving to use their formal peer review on preprints so that's an interesting development.” Watch this space! 

Question: Is micropublication easier to achieve via preprints?

Benjamin thinks that micropublications play an important part in science, but he is not certain about the role of peer-reviewed micropublications. He added, “a micropublication can be a blog post or something that you link to on a Twitter post. I had very effective dissemination and feedback on an idea through, effectively, a micropublication that didn't go through a journal or from a journal's perspective. It's so much easier to do that than to then put the micropublication through that onerous peer-review process.”

Roman thinks micropublications will be extremely helpful in the field of chemistry and in other fields where theory dominates. He believes that, with micropublications, ideas can come first—in the open—and then authors can work on the developments later.

Richard thinks, “I feel my problem with micropublications is that I think this is a sort of an obsession among publishing types: you constantly talk about it, and then when you talk to actual researchers they are not very interested at all.” He feels that it is needless to create this additional category of an object apart from journals.

Eva thinks micropublications can be very cool for trainees and undergrads, where we can serve them a much more controlled parameter space.

Question: One of the biggest challenges was reading the research outside their area of expertise and how you might go about tackling that challenge?

Danielle only trusts the paper that has been reviewed and does not bother to read preprints. Meanwhile, Eva finds many interesting and important preprints. But there are still challenges associated with the quality of these preprints, and researchers have to think twice before citing those. She claimed, “I have found it an incredible resource both as a place I put things and as a place that I get things from.”

Benjamin reads preprints and likes the latest addition by the bioRxiv to populate the links to the published version of the paper. He suggested, “if you put out a preprint that you care to get published, it should be in a pretty good form before you just slap it up there.” He also added that his papers that undergo peer review come out better in the end, and they have more value.

Eva raises the issue of not seeing any changes or updates on the preprints once uploaded. She continues by raising another issue, “I agree the link [to published version] is helpful, but I wonder how often people are, you know, following the link to reread the finalized version of the paper.”

Roman says that a lot of the preprints are shorter because authors want it to be published elsewhere later afterward, but other papers are longer to read and there is always a problem with long papers: who will check this full paper, versus the shorter preprint, if it gets cited?

Question: What are some of the challenges that you faced due to the pandemic?

Samantha thinks in her field (Biology), there is always a kind of limitation of experimentation with regard to animals and sample size. Due to the pandemic, this issue of sample size remains prevalent, but even with the small sample size, researchers are still able to find something new that is worth publishing.

Richard believes that there is a flipside to what Samantha shared—in the field of microbiology. With fewer animals or subjects to perform the experiments, the experiments become less effective. He thinks that the pandemic has affected different people in very different ways.

Roman feels that, in a field where theory dominates, most of the work can be done from the home just as from the university, meaning that there may be fewer challenges associated with specific disciplines.

Question: What is the takeaway from the publishers from the session?

Benjamin feels that the publishers should not require stringent formats at the initial submission stage, and they should provide an option to format the paper later, only after it is accepted. Roman echoes these feelings and adds that, at reviewer invitation, adding more information about the manuscript rather than less would be better for researchers trying to decide whether or not to accept or decline the opportunity to review.

Danielle thinks handling manuscripts with care from beginning to end is critical, and making sure that editors moderate reviewers to avoid ‘bad review experiences’ is important. Also, partnering closely with authors for promotion of published works is also an important part of the process.

Researcher question for publishers: Editors are working to find and recruit reviewers who are otherwise academics; do editors receive and/or offer any training to academic editors and/or reviewers?

Richard clarifies that all of the editors in the publications are trained. A paid professional editor goes through extensive training; they have mentors, handle papers with other people to get to the point where they can make decisions on their own, and have groups where they can discuss with their colleagues.

Claire calls the process a team effort, where editors meet and share their decisions. She elaborated her thoughts by saying, “One of the things you do want is to get consistency across the editors so that you're setting the same threshold, and the same rules, first that you know for articles are accepted, so there's quite a team effort as well behind the scenes”.

While this was our first Best Practice Webinar Series event, we felt that the turnout, enthusiasm, momentum, and key takeaways were successful. We are working on plans to continue this series and have announced our next event, which will focus on Best Practices for publishers to consider when thinking about getting the most out of preprint integration. Find out more. And if you enjoyed this piece and would like to discuss, share questions, or suggest a new focus area for a future Best Practice Series event, please drop us a note.

HighWire is the Awards and Bronze sponsor for the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021. To find out more about the conference and details for 2022, visit 

About the authors

Mridul Saxena, Subject Matter Expert, MPS 
Mridul strategizes, plans, and executes marketing activities for group brands including MPS Limited, Mag+ and HighWire . Mridul is a writer who observes the creative side of every task and infuses his work with over seven years of industry-wide experience in media, public relations, and corporate communications. Mridul studied Journalism, and is an Honours graduate of Delhi University. He is also a sports enthusiast, and enjoys reading mythological books. His favorite number is 42.

Alison McGonagle-O’ConnellSenior Director of Marketing, HighWire Press
Alison is an experienced marketing professional with nearly two decades of demonstrated history of working in the publishing industry, including 10 years marketing scholarly communications workflow solutions.  Alison leads HighWire Marketing and is responsible for continually growing and supporting our community. 

Alison is active as a volunteer in industry initiatives including CRediT and as a Library Trustee in her hometown of South Hampton, New Hampshire in the United States.

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Research and Researchers in the time of Covid-19: Part I

What our research shows
By Mridul Saxena and Alison McGonagle-O’Connell, MPS/HighWire Marketing

HighWire is the Awards and Bronze sponsor for the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021

It usually takes 18–254 days to break or form a habit. The extended series of lockdowns due to Covid-19 has helped many to break some old habits and form new ones. This has changed the way we live, work, and socialize. The personal and professional lives of researchers are no exception, and like everyone else they also have adjusted to the ‘new normal.’ From conferences to collaborations, labs to the library, managing home and office from the same place, virtual meetings to getting accustomed to social media, one is left wondering “in the face of all these sudden changes, how is the scholarly community faring?” 

To explore these questions, we engaged a Stanford University-based research team, who conducted and analyzed 25 ethnographic interviews. The result was a thought-provoking two-hour community webinar in which the original research was presented by HighWire Founding Director John Sack, and then a panel of publishers, technologists, and researchers shared further insight and discussion, as well as engaged with audience questions.

This Part I post summarizes the findings from the original research presented at the event. Part II will summarize the panel discussion, so please stay tuned for that companion piece. Those eager to view the event may watch it in its entirety in the video recording below.

The ‘Time’ of Covid-19

Time is a researcher’s most precious commodity, and the Covid-19 pandemic did free up most of it for the researchers, which they otherwise would have spent in labs, commuting, and on other work. While an Internet connection, email access, Zoom connectivity, and access to most journals online were some of the silver linings, researchers with children found it difficult to utilize this ‘extra time’ toward their research work due to the caregiving responsibility. 

The Covid-19 pandemic also posed a problem for the researchers who ran experiments in labs and required people to conduct the research. However, field and lab scientists utilized their time in reading and writing during the pandemic and considered this duration the apt time to wrap up any pending publications and to re-familiarize themselves with the literature. Some researchers refined their running experiments and wrote review articles while trying to learn new skills.

Interaction-less virtual conferences  

Conferences have been one of the easiest ways to build relationships with fellow researchers and publishers. In-person meetings and conferences have now been replaced by ‘Zoom’ meetings and ‘Slack’ conversations. In the researchers’ opinions, the virtual conferences are helpful, though they miss certain key elements of virtual conferences—most notably, the ‘interaction.’ 

Zoom makes it easy to collaborate between institutions in cases where it is difficult to schedule and travel. Some researchers prefer Zoom meetings over in-person meetings, as they yield more equitable contributions than in-person meetings. The meeting hosts can control the flow of the meeting, which minimizes the chance of a single dominant voice, as usually happens during  in-person conferences.

However, meeting hosts and speakers are often confounded by the common question ‘Is everyone attentive during the talk?’ It is hard to judge the audience in virtual conferences, as the energy and enthusiasm are occasionally missing. The creativity, spontaneity, and unplanned interaction among the attendees during breaks, or while waiting for the next speaker to start, and the lively interaction over the following dinner are all lost in virtual meetings. A researcher also pointed out a specific challenge faced by many fellow researchers in the era of virtual meetings: that they do not know how to have conversations afterward in the virtual breakout rooms. 

The unexpected change

Change is permanent to human civilization, but the unexpected change brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic became a hard pill to swallow for many. As labs are now encouraging researchers to use their lab time for essential activities with social-distancing norms, researchers have seen a sharp decrease in productivity for months. Thus, the researchers are not only worried about the long-term consequences of that lost productivity, especially for early-career scientists, but also are of the opinion that the pandemic certainly has a lesser effect on theoretical and computational scientists. Researchers have been facing many challenges while publishing their papers during Covid-19, and these challenges are directly related to the slowing down of the processes due to the pandemic. A perceived longer peer review and publishing cycle did set off many researchers, but some did find the solution to these problems in preprints.

The publishing dilemma

Researchers have disclosed that their personal history of working with particular editors and having positive experiences with them have been instrumental in their decision to select a particular venue to submit their work for publication. Apart from these, researchers also look at the costs and other factors associated with submission to the high-impact journals. Researchers have been univocal on depositing data with the publishers and have termed it to be a “good practice”.

Among the biggest challenges that the researchers have experienced during the pandemic is the elongated publishing cycle. Early-career researchers (ECRs) have a particular challenge with these slower cycles. An 8–12-month cycle might become 20 months for ECRs just for a single article. Also, researchers face the burden of reformatting manuscripts and managing the complex design of HTML. PDF submission is still the first choice of researchers and is central to the reader experience. The journals that allow submission in simplified formats such as PDF still have higher approval ratings among these researchers as a preferred venue to publish their papers.

The social connection

Social media acted as a bridge between the researchers and publishers and helped them build and maintain connections during the pandemic. From Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, researchers found new ways to connect, gather, and absorb information. Twitter turns out to be the most preferred tool for many to find and gather information related to their field, with some outliers. YouTube is highly recommended among the mediums to consume information. A researcher whose work involves visualization and interactive graphs would opt for watching video content, as it is more interactive and useful than reading similar content as text only. The rise of these mediums underscores the importance of the already-ongoing shift toward multimedia for display of scholarly research content.

Twitter has emerged as the biggest game-changer for some researchers not only in terms of connecting with fellow researchers, suggesting articles, and getting reviews, but also regarding alerts. Researchers have reiterated that ‘tweets are faster than Google alerts’ or even journal ‘e-tocs.’ With both the author and the journal tweeting about the paper, tweets show up faster to the interested people. A tweet helps the reader extract the value of an article even faster than from reading the title. As the reader has already distilled information regarding the paper from the tweet, they may then focus on information that is more targeted to their interests. Twitter also lends authors the option of picking up on a tweet and retweeting it while also adding his or her spin on it.

Researchers can now easily get alerted to developments in their field by following the research groups with similar interests without the need to navigate Google Scholar or PubMed with keywords. The tools available on Google Scholar and other platforms are considered less useful regarding their ability to filter and absorb the required information. Researchers feel less overwhelmed by the ease of access to the amount of information on Twitter, and this could be the reason for the decline of alerts and e-tocs and the rise of Twitter. 

Slack and Zoom chat also find a notable mention in easing communication in these times of Covid-19. Being informal sources of information, they are useful for link sharing, sharing literature, and getting quick confirmation, and for other small and simple communication or interaction tasks that were previously managed via in-person interaction or emails.

The two sides of a coin: preprints 

Preprints can be a revolutionary option for authors, yet they can also present many challenges for researchers. Though preprints are a simple and effective way to share research, researchers have identified some gaps in awareness surrounding the best practices for posting and accessing preprints. Some researchers remain unsure of journal policies with regard to publishing research that has been posted on preprint servers, while others flag potential concerns around community expectations and dealing with the wide range of public comments. 

Preprints can facilitate the immediate availability of new information and can attract the attention of fellow researchers, whereas the researchers do think that preprints should go through a peer review and that readers need to exercise some caution while reading preprints critically. This means that researchers can then opt for multiple roles—both as a reviewer and as a reader at once.

Half of the researchers stated that they often post preprints only at the time of submission because they need to update the progress of a grant or an assessment. ECRs, job applicants, and grant writers prefer preprints in parallel to submitting research, which will inevitably queue up for a long peer-review process that is exacerbated by the pandemic 

Open access: ‘we’ll do it if we're funded to’

Funding and fees related to publishing Gold Open Access in fully OA or Hybrid OA journals is still a discussion point within the scholarly community. Authors from smaller institutions or less-funded regions are unable to pay the fees for open access unless their funders provide them funding support. However, the common opinion among researchers surrounding publishing OA is: we’ll do it if we're funded to do it. What researchers care about most is that their work is seen by the communities who understand its value—and that does not necessarily always point toward OA. 

Researchers have recommended that...

All of the researchers unambiguously recommended giving more opportunities to junior faculty, as this could be a gateway to long-lasting relationships with the editors and journals. To create a productive, diverse, and inclusive scholarly environment, publishers should make peer review a more transparent and collaborative process. The other important aspect that the publishers should consider is to simplify the burdensome manuscript submission process. The simplicity of posting preprints should be the benchmark for the journals in their revamping of submission workflows and configuration of supporting systems. Researchers also highly value and appreciate any help offered by publishers in promoting their work.

High five from HighWire’s Researcher Interviews

  1. Improve your Twitter game. Connect with your community. Be active! Share useful information.
  2. Support authors’ efforts to promote articles.
  3. Simplify submission workflow with format-neutral submissions.
  4. Consider allowing submission via preprint servers.
  5. Be a connector, even at virtual conferences. Everyone is missing that element of unplanned interaction.

HighWire is the Awards and Bronze sponsor for the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021. To find out more about the conference and details for 2022, visit 

About the authors

Mridul Saxena,
Subject Matter Expert, MPS

Mridul strategizes, plans, and executes marketing activities for group brands including MPS Limited, Mag+ and HighWire . Mridul is a writer who observes the creative side of every task and infuses his work with over seven years of industry-wide experience in media, public relations, and corporate communications. Mridul studied Journalism, and is an Honours graduate of Delhi University. He is also a sports enthusiast, and enjoys reading mythological books. His favorite number is 42.



Alison McGonagle-O’Connell, Senior Director of Marketing, HighWire Press

Alison is an experienced marketing professional with nearly two decades of demonstrated history of working in the publishing industry, including 10 years marketing scholarly communications workflow solutions.  Alison leads HighWire Marketing and is responsible for continually growing and supporting our community. 

Alison is active as a volunteer in industry initiatives including CRediT and as a Library Trustee in her hometown of South Hampton, New Hampshire in the United States.

Wednesday 1 September 2021

Careers Come First

What the 2021 Wiley Society Member Survey tells us about careers and DE&I

By Dr Jonathan Roscoe, Partner Engagement, Wiley – Gold sponsor of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021

Career development, especially in academia, is never easy. Combine this with issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and some might say it’s more difficult than ever. We’ve seen over the course of seven Wiley Society Member surveys how important career success is to members, which is why every year the survey looks at how societies are helping their members with career development, and how satisfied members are with their society’s offerings. We’ve identified three main drivers of society membership: content, community, and careers with content usually being the front runner. However, this year we’ve seen careers increase in prominence and become arguably the leading reason for membership

The career support challenge

From a society perspective, members view career support as a top benefit of society membership. 44% of survey respondents across all disciplines told us they were satisfied with the level of support for promoting members’ careers, but this has been falling year on year. Given that, it seems clear that a strong careers support service, especially when combined with publishing ethics and a clear society mission, will not just win new members, but will engage and keep the members you’ve got. There are warning signs, however. 15% of those who left a society in the previous 12 months did so because of a lack of support for career advancement. It was the second most significant reason after ‘lack of professional value’, but even more significantly it resulted in a much lower than average satisfaction rating. Societies who put effort into their career offerings have a motivated, engaged, and loyal group of members. Those who don’t, risk losing members and maybe even their society reputation.

Careers for all

Last year, 62% of members told us that they were satisfied with the representation of members across genders, but this year that has dropped to 56%. There has been a similar fall in satisfaction with the representation of members across racial and ethnic groups too, down to 50% from 57%. The past year or more has seen the pandemic disproportionately impact certain members of the research community. The Brave New World research study supported by Wiley, confirmed similar findings. They found that the pandemic had increased gender disparity and highlighted racial inequalities, saying that 59% of responders had taken on additional household chores, 51% had taken on responsibility for home-schooling, 33% had dependent care, and 46% had other caring responsibilities. 

The study found that professional responsibilities had also increased with 53% spending more time on lecture preparation and planning and 48% spending more time supporting students. When broken down, however, the disparities are once again striking. Although those in the BIPOC community were less likely to report additional home-schooling responsibilities and care of dependents, they were more likely to have increased responsibility for household chores. Research was also impacted with 37% of Black responders saying they had less time to produce and consume research compared to 30% of white responders. Similarly, 45% of women said they spent less time on research compared to 37% of men. Indeed, 50% of women compared to 44% of men said they had increased caring responsibilities and 68% of women faced an increase in household chores compared to 55% of men. 

In the face of these increased and unequal pressures, career progression inevitably goes onto a back burner.

What societies can do

It is to be expected that in time, as the impact of the pandemic recedes, many of these additional responsibilities will reduce or disappear and societies can once again offer the career support their members so badly need. So, what can they do?

  • Create more opportunities for under-represented groups by increasing recruitment for prestige roles or by supporting scholarships and other initiatives 

  • Devise a career support service in tandem with open attitudes to research, strong support for publishing ethics, and a positive society mission that members can relate to

  • Make sure your leadership is representative. Change starts from the top. If members don’t see themselves reflected in the society leadership, then they won’t see the value of joining and career progression will stall

  • Ask what career service members want. According to the Wiley survey over a third of members have participated in a society survey and those that do show the highest membership satisfaction rates

  • Don’t just focus on early career researchers (ECRs). It may not be surprising that career support services are most used and valued by ECRs , but societies should find out why older and more experienced members aren’t participating – and if it even matters. If it does matter, ask questions to boost engagement with career offerings. What type of support are older members seeking?

It’s obvious that not all members will share the same set of values, but all members are looking for equal and fair career opportunities. Done correctly, the career support service societies offer can be the catalyst for positive change. Which is something everyone in academia wants. 

Wiley is a gold sponsor of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021. To find out more and book your place, visit the ALPSP event website.

Wiley is also running a Sponsor Satellite Session - Wiley Presents 2021 Society Member Trends on Thursday 16 September (12:00-12:45, BST). Read more details.

About the author

Dr Jonathan Roscoe, Partner Engagement, Wiley

Jonathan has worked in academic publishing since 1997 and is currently a member of Wiley’s partner engagement team focusing on society and member relationships. He has published extensively on the topic and writes a monthly blog for The Wiley Network. Jonathan also lectures on undergraduate and masters courses at Oxford Brookes University, where he’s also published on matters relating to book history.