September 26, 2023

Diversity in authorship and editorial processes

min read

The significance of research extends far beyond academic realms, permeating into the very fabric of societal progress and understanding. As our world becomes increasingly interconnected in the digital age, the importance of research lies not only in advancing knowledge within specific fields but also in ensuring that diverse voices are heard.

In scholarly communication, peer review stands as a cornerstone of academic rigor, ensuring the novelty and quality of research disseminated to the world. For over three centuries, this method of evaluation, where subject matter experts critically assess research, has played a critical role in shaping scientific discourse.

While peer review is undoubtedly a long-established and essential ritual in the scholarly publishing process, it is not without its imperfections. The traditional peer review process is affected by systemic issues such as racism, bias, and inequality. Furthermore, a lack of recognition for review work and reviewer fatigue, stemming from reviewers receiving excessive invitations to evaluate manuscripts, are also significant issues impacting scholarly communication today.

Considering the very nature and purpose of research and peer review, recognizing the imperative for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in publication processes is crucial. Equity involves addressing identity-based advantages and barriers, diversity aims to increase the presence of individuals with diverse identities, and inclusion fosters an environment where all are welcomed and valued. A more diverse peer review process can enhance quality and fairness by encouraging debate and discussion from a varied range of voices.

It is a collective responsibility to ensure that the research landscape is inclusive, reflective of varied perspectives, and capable of advancing research in a fair and unbiased manner.

The Publisherspeak 2023 breakout session for this theme was chaired by SSP President Randy Townsend (The George Washington University). Contributors to this breakout session include John W. Warren (The George Washington University), Michelle English (American Society of Civil Engineers), Yubing Zhai (Association for Computing Machinery), Jennifer Gilbreath (American Psychiatric Association), Sydney Cough (American Society of Nephrology), Darren Early (Biophysical Society), Michael D. Roy (American Psychiatric Publishing), and Sarah Bruce (American Psychiatric Association).

Challenge identified

At Publisherspeak 2023, the group handling this theme identified 3 core challenges pertaining to diversity in authorship and editorial processes:

  1. How to recognize and reward peer reviewers with an increased representativeness?
  2. How do we get data about the makeup of our field?
  3. How do we define success?

Out of these 3 challenges, “How to recognize and reward peer reviewers with an increased representativeness?” was selected as the top challenge to focus on, and the group built their Solution Canvas to address this challenge.

Strategic solutions to recognize and reward peer reviewers

It is imperative to recognize and reward peer reviewers for their significant contributions to the advancement of research. By extending gratitude and tangible acknowledgment, we celebrate individual efforts and cultivate a collective ethos that values the dedication and expertise that peer reviewers bring to the forefront of progress. 

The group at Publishespeak 2023 brainstormed on strategies to better recognize and reward peer reviewers. The group’s Solution Canvas also highlights the benefits for the stakeholders impacted by this challenge: an increased reviewer pool and more robust research as a result of greater diversity.

The Solution Canvas emphasizes the promotion of peer review as a vital exercise in critical thinking, contributing to the shared knowledge base within the field. Additionally, the group acknowledged the significance of collecting data from peer review systems to establish baseline data. Establishing a baseline for author and reviewer diversity lays the foundation for ongoing progress and allows for measurable growth.

To enhance peer review and empower reviewers for optimal contributions, the group proposed strategies centered around mentorship and training programs. The group also put forth solutions to reward and incentivize peer reviewers, such as personalized acknowledgments, expedited processing for researchers with a minimum of 3 reviews, Publons credit, and more.

The solutions outlined by the group can result in tangible improvements in journal metrics as well as a positive response from the community. Fostering author and reviewer diversity not only aligns with ethical considerations but also contributes significantly to the overall enhancement of scholarly endeavors.

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