In the next year, researchers should expect to face a sensitive set of questions whenever they send their papers to journals, and when they review or edit manuscripts. More than 50 publishers representing over 15,000 journals globally are preparing to ask scientists about their race or ethnicity — as well as their gender — in an initiative that’s part of a growing effort to analyse researcher diversity around the world. Publishers say that this information, gathered and stored securely, will help to analyse who is represented in journals, and to identify whether there are biases in editing or review that sway which findings get published. Pilot testing suggests that many scientists support the idea, although not all.
The effort comes amid a push for a wider acknowledgement of racism and structural racism in science and publishing — and the need to gather more information about it. In any one country, such as the United States, ample data show that minority groups are under-represented in science, particularly at senior levels. But data on how such imbalances are reflected — or intensified — in research journals are scarce. Publishers haven’t systematically looked, in part because journals are international and there has been no measurement framework for race and ethnicity that made sense to researchers of many cultures.
“If you don’t have the data, it is very difficult to understand where you are at, to make changes, set goals and measure progress,” says Holly Falk-Krzesinski, vice-president of research intelligence at the Dutch publisher Elsevier, who is working with the joint group and is based in Chicago, Illinois.