Tuesday 26 July 2022

Spotlight on Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing

Shortlisted for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing 2022

Joint Commitment graphic, participating organisations

This year, the judges have selected a shortlist of seven for the ALPSP Awards for Innovation in Publishing.  Each finalist will be invited to showcase their innovation to industry peers on 14 September on the opening day of the ALPSP 2022 Conference in Manchester. The winners will be announced at the Awards Dinner on Thursday 15 September.

In this series, we learn more about each of the finalists.

Tell us about your organisation

The Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing is a group of over 50 organisations, brought together by the Royal Society of Chemistry.  We comprise publishers from across the spectrum: commercial, not-for-profit, open access publishers, society publishers, those covering specialist subject areas and those covering a broad range of disciplines. Publishers of all shapes and sizes have joined, and we all have a common goal of seeking to improve inclusion and diversity in the scholarly publishing ecosystem. The Royal Society of Chemistry, as a society publisher and an organisation that has completed a range of credible work within the area of inclusion and diversity already, is trusted by publishers across the sector to lead this change.

 What is the project/product that you submitted for the Awards?

The Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing is all about collective action to make things better together. We launched in June of 2020 following a workshop in which the Royal Society of Chemistry shared our Framework for action in scientific publishing – a practical guide to reducing bias in our own publishing activities – in a workshop with other publishers.

In that workshop, we collectively agreed to pool our resources to take decisive action. We made the following commitments:

1. Understand our research community

We will work to ensure that diversity data can be self-reported by members of our community, using appropriately worded questions, and in a compliant and secure way through our peer review systems.

2. Reflect the diversity of our community

We will use anonymised and aggregated data to uncover subject-specific diversity baselines, and set minimum targets to achieve appropriate and inclusive representation of our authors, reviewers and editorial decision-makers.

3. Share success to achieve impact

We will share and develop new and innovative resources, and we will transparently share policies, language and standards, to move inclusion and diversity in publishing forward together.

4. Set minimum standards on which to build

We will scrutinise our own publishing processes and take action to achieve a minimum standard for inclusion in publishing, based initially on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Framework for action in scientific publishing. We will engage all relevant stakeholders to improve outcomes on inclusion and diversity, at all stages of the publishing process. 

Our milestone achievements are:

  • June 2020: Workshop leads to joint commitment, signed by an initial 12 publishers
  • Feb 2021: Schema established for collection of gender data; work on developing schema for data collection methods for race and ethnicity is ongoing
  • March 2021: Post-publication author name changes good practices devised, shared with Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and National Information Standards Organization (NISO). Members of the joint commitment have since facilitated name changes for hundreds of authors
  • May 2021: 

    • Workshop held to discuss making progress on tackling harmful historical content. Outputs shared with COPE working group
    • Facilitated collaborative conversations between Elsevier (owners of Editorial Manager) and ScholarOne about how to best incorporate diversity data collection into submission and peer review systems
  • June 2021: Number of publishers joined commitment reaches 40
  • November 2021: Minimum standards on which to build launched
  • January 2022: Number of publishers joined commitment reaches 50 
  • April 2022: Standardised questions for self-reported diversity data collection launched

Tell us a little about how it works and the team behind it

The group serves as a knowledge sharing network, supporting publishers to accelerate their progress on inclusion and diversity. We have a working group comprising at least one representative from each signatory organisation, with sub-groups taking forward specific areas of action under each of the four commitments. These groups meet and share information frequently, and whole-group meetings are held three times a year to review progress, agree actions and set direction.  The Royal Society of Chemistry initiated and continues to facilitate the Joint commitment, contributing staff time and expertise from its Publishing, Inclusion and Diversity and Communications teams, and providing secretariat to the working group.  All signatory organisations contribute their staff time and expertise through attendance at working group meetings and voluntary participation in the subgroups and associated activities, at a level commensurate with the organisation’s size and available resources. Sub groups are (or have been) chaired by representatives from BMJ, eLife, Elsevier, IOP Publishing, the Royal Society, and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

In what ways do you think it demonstrates innovation?

A major achievement of the initiative has been having publishers put aside competitive differences, to really drive change across scholarly publishing as a whole.  Our minimum standards, for the first time, set out clearly what publishers should do to lay a foundation that can be built upon to improve inclusion and diversity in their publishing activities. We believe the minimum standards will enable senior leaders in publishing, editorial decision makers and editorial boards to evaluate their performance and progress on inclusion and diversity within their organisations and publications. The minimum standards will also enable publishers, editorial decision makers, authors, and reviewers to identify and take achievable, specific actions to improve inclusion and diversity in scholarly publishing.  Furthermore, our standardised questions for collecting race and ethnicity data are the first globally applicable demographic questions of this type, which will support a standardised data-driven approach between publishers to inform our goals around diversity, inclusion and equity in scholarly communications and research more broadly.

What are your plans for the future?

The initiative, while having achieved a great deal, is still very much ongoing. Near-term priorities include the implementation of the recently launched gender identity and race and ethnicity questions, by encouraging uptake from publishers and supporting communication to researchers, and working with bodies such as COPE and NISO to support standardisation. Longer term, once collection of gender identity and race and ethnicity data is under way with many publishers, the group will work on supporting publishers to define baselines, and consider setting targets for more inclusive representation, as well as seeking to collect other types of diversity data as appropriate (e.g. disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status).

Sub groups are also working on providing support for publishers in implementing the minimum standards, facilitating conversations on issues such as sex and gender reporting and developing guidance on including I&D within editor, author and reviewer codes of conduct.

Read more about the Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing.

Visit the ALPSP Annual Conference 2022 Website for more details and to book your place. 

image Nicola Nugent

About the author: 

Dr Nicola Nugent is Publishing Manager, Quality & Ethics at the Royal Society of Chemistry, where she is the strategic lead for quality and impact across journals and books.

She has responsibility for the journal's peer-review strategy, as well as publishing ethics, and inclusion & diversity in publishing. She leads the Publication Ethics Team at the Royal Society of Chemistry, which handles a range of publication ethics and research integrity issues, including paper mill investigations.

Nicola has over 15 years’ experience in STM publishing in a variety of operational and strategic roles, with an editorial focus. She has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Bristol, UK.

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