As part of a ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ (DEI) initiative, some of the major academic publishers and journals are asking authors, editors and peer reviewers to provide information on their personal characteristics, including race and ethnicity.
Elsevier (a publisher of more than 2,600 journals) states the following in the final stage of the manuscript submission process:
Diversity & Inclusion
Help us establish evidence-based action plans and measure progress on diversity & inclusion goals towards greater equity in publishing and research. This data will directly inform our efforts across editorial processes but is otherwise analysed and reported in aggregate. For more information, see our FAQs.
While these questions cannot be skipped, you may opt to answer I prefer not to disclose. Individual responses will not be visible or used when evaluating journal submissions.
And the below information is provided in FAQs:
Why is Elsevier asking these questions?
By inviting Editorial Manager users to self-report their gender identity, ethnic origins and race (diversity data), Elsevier facilitates an evidence-based approach to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in research. By analysing diversity data, Elsevier aims to increase diversity and inclusion in Elsevier’s journal editorial processes, remediate unfair bias and drive greater equity in publishing and research more broadly.
I’ve expressed some of my own concerns about this to Elsevier. I’m sharing the main text of my letter below. I hope other researchers and academics, especially those on editorial boards, will raise concerns too if you feel able to do so. Please feel free to share and use this letter as you wish.
Re: Inviting Editorial Manager users to self-report their gender identity, ethnic origins, and race (diversity data)
I am writing to express some of my concerns about the above DEI initiative. I became aware of this when I recently submitted a paper to one of your journals and was asked to provide information about my personal characteristics.
I am very concerned about being asked to provide this information, even though it is an invitation and is not mandatory.
It undermines my trust and confidence in the editorial process and in academic publishing because it raises the possibility that my personal characteristics could be considered during the editorial process, or that I could be subjected to some form of differential treatment by this journal or publisher on the basis of my personal characteristics.
It is my belief that the only factors that should inform the editorial process are the quality and presentation of the research and how well it aligns with the journal. Being able to assume that this generally will be my experience is what makes me feel confident about submitting my work to a journal.
Any form of preferential treatment based on my personal characteristics (e.g., a paper being more likely to be considered for peer review, an invitation to contribute to a special issue, or my work being promoted in some way) to help achieve DEI goals would undermine this trust and confidence, as does the mere possibility or suggestion of it.
Furthermore, any form of preferential treatment by the publisher or journal would be deeply offensive and unacceptable to me. My research deserves to undergo the exact same editorial process as that of my academic peers – without regard to my racial background or other personal characteristics. I had taken for granted that this would be the case in the past, but DEI initiatives like this one justifiably raise some doubts and concerns.
Are procedures in place to remove or minimise the possibility for any discrimination (including preferential treatment) based on personal characteristics such as race during the editorial process? And can you assure me that no algorithms or processes that are sensitive to information on personal characteristics are or will be used during the editorial process?
This article first appeared on Amber Muhinyi’s Substack.
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