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At Elsevier, I get to be another kind of superhero

November 3, 2021 | 6 min read

By Richard Etienne

Richard Etienne is Director of Internal Communications at Elsevier

As a child, I was jealous of Superman. … Now, I’m at a company that empowers researchers and health professionals.

As a child, I was jealous of Superman.

Not because he got to fly around or could shoot lasers from his eyes. Not even because he could disguise himself or that he always got the girl.

No, it was because he saved the world every time, even when it looked like he had nothing left to give.

It is this burning desire to make good of the world that drove my father to become a senior figure in his Christian faith and why my mother is such an advocate of social justice. Both my parents were children of the Windrush generationopens in new tab/window , the name given to Caribbean citizens who answered the call from “the motherland” Britain and migrated there to help rebuild a country blighted by war.

So while I am not an offspring of two scientists from the planet Krypton, my career path has led me to join a company that empowers researchers and health professionals to advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. Elsevier does this in five ways:

1. Helping to ensure research is reliable

For more than 140 years, Elsevier has been refining and enhancing the publication process. Every year, we recruit and train 18,000 new editors and editorial board members with expertise in hundreds of specialist fields and a passion for supporting their scientific community. As a result, 90% of researchers say the process has improved the clarity of their research and 99.95% of Elsevier-published research is retained as part of the trusted academic record.

2. Helping people access and publish quality research

Where the need is greatest and we can make the biggest difference in a sustainable way, Elsevier makes research completely free to access. For example, we provide free access to research for health emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic (200 million downloads in 2020); free or low-cost access for 120 low- and middle-income countries (1 million downloads in 2020); and free access for patients and caregivers.

3. Enabling the exchange of knowledge and ideas

With more than 1,000 of our staff having PhDs – and having been in academia themselves – they now use their experience to bring together global networks of researchers, convening thousands of roundtables, conferences and editorial board meetings across hundreds of disciplines annually.

4. Advancing inclusion and diversity in research

Progress for society is achieved more quickly when diverse ideas and different perspectives come together from across gender, race, ethnicity and geography. Elsevier has established many programs to support inclusion and diversity within our company and in the communities we serve. For example, through the Elsevier Foundation awardsopens in new tab/window, we help raise visibility and opportunities for women scientists in developing countries. And Cell Press has established the Rising Black Scientists Awardsopens in new tab/window, providing funds to support professional development. Meanwhile, our employee-led Employee Resource Groups — such as Women Connected, the African American Network and Elsevier Pride — help foster a diverse workplace and provide support and visibility for employees.

5. Supporting the responsible assessment of research

We work directly with the research community to co-develop and pilot new measures and indicators, such as the societal and economic impact of research. For example, we map research to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help assess the impact researchers and universities are having in this critical area.

Conveying the human element of research, technology and health

As Elsevier’s Director of Internal Communications, I want to give life to Elsevier’s mission and values so they become more than words on a webpage. There is a human element to research, technology and health that can be too easily overlooked when the commercial conversation takes over. That’s why, through our person-centered #ElsevierTogether campaign, our Internal Communications team creates and promotes the stories of our people, reminding us all why Elsevier is a place where you can do purposeful work and thrive.

Because in the real world, not all superheroes wear capes.

Watch Richard's story about joining Elsevier

"The butterflies were turning in my stomach on day," Richard says. "Not because I was starting a new job ... but this one was different."

Listen to his storyopens in new tab/window


Richard Etienne Headshot


Richard Etienne

Director of Internal Communications