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Publishers commit to fight for diversity

Elsevier, American Chemical Society and Hindawi among companies pledging to set targets for inclusivity

Some of the world’s biggest research publishers have agreed to take a hard look at their practices and bring in targets to improve the diversity of the authors whose work they feature.

Companies including Elsevier, the BMJ group, the UK’s Royal Society and the American Chemical Society—jointly responsible for thousands of journals—say they will use anonymised data to assess diversity and follow up with minimum targets to “achieve appropriate and inclusive representation of authors, reviewers and editorial decision-makers”.

Concerns that women and minority authors are disadvantaged by the peer review system of research publishing have grown steadily in recent years. Some studies suggest that women and minority researchers face more barriers to publication than white, male colleagues. Those in positions of power in the publishing industry and at research journals are also often white and male.

“Biases exist in research publishing, and acknowledging this is an important step for the research community at large,” said Emma Wilson, director of publishing at the Royal Society of Chemistry, which has driven the publishers’ agreement.

“Today we are agreeing to pool knowledge, data and resources to understand who is in our communities, and we are committing to ensure this diversity is reflected in those who make decisions during the publishing process.”

The other signatories to the agreement, unveiled on 18 June, are Cambridge University Press, the Company of Biologists, Emerald Publishing, Hindawi, IOP Publishing and Oxford University Press.

“We are establishing a working group to help us establish minimum standards across the industry, and invite all publishers who have not yet joined us to get in touch so we can learn from each other and change publishing together,” said Wilson.