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Paving the way to increase diversity in journals – and research

23 March 2023

By Erin Hill-Parks, PhD

Why we’re asking people to voluntarily self-report diversity data in Editorial Manager

As part of our commitment to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in research, Elsevier has introduced the opportunity for editors, reviewers and authors to choose to self-report their gender identity, ethnic origins and race within their profile in Editorial Manager.

Diversity in publishing, as part of the research ecosystem, is an important factor in creating actionable, insightful and relevant research, protecting against biases and blind spots, minimizing confirmation bias, and promoting innovation and development. Incorporating voluntary, self-reported diversity questions in the publishing process is one of the ways we are working to use a data-led approach to increase diversity.

Why ask about these three areas?

Gender identity, ethnic origins and race – and their intersectionality – are frequently identified as areas of diversity where research institutions and organizations fall short relative to the communities they serve and the workforce pipeline from which they draw.

Broadly, a lack of a diverse and inclusive workforce negatively affects the scope of research questions studied and who benefits from the outcomes of research. In editorial processes, including authorship and peer review, it is not acceptable to dismiss lack of diversity as a “pipeline problem”; by not engaging under-represented groups, journals perpetuate a vicious cycle that disadvantages these groups and hampers their advancement and societal progress. Journals, therefore, have a concrete opportunity to drive positive change using data-led initiatives.

How did we create the questions?

Elsevier’s self-identification questions use the schemas approved by the joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishingopens in new tab/window led by the Royal Society of Chemistry, along with 53 publishers, as part of its diversity data collection in scholarly publishing initiativeopens in new tab/window. Development of the schema was an iterative process that drew on input from the Joint Commitment group, external subject matter expert Ann Morning, professor of sociology at New York University, Elsevier’s Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board, and feedback from a large-scale, global researcher survey Elsevier conductedopens in new tab/window.

Dr. Holly Falk-Krzesinski, Co-chair, Gender Equity Taskforce and Vice President, Research Intelligence at Elsevier notes, “as a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative, this is an important collaborative effort in service to the research community that took a global-first approach, which is especially important as we continue to see an increasing internationalization of research. Our coordinated approach also means that publishers can continue to work together using a shared framework toward developing benchmarking capabilities.”

What will we do with the diversity data?

The diversity data collected will enable us to design action plans and measure progress to improve diversity and inclusion across journal editorial processes and drive greater equity in publishing and research more broadly. We aim to review the editorial process holistically, from submission through to publication, including reviewer and Editorial Board selection. If there are opportunities to further advance inclusion and diversity, such as by enhancing outreach, we aim to take action to adopt them; similarly, if we discover biases in our editorial processes, we will work to remediate them. Diversity data are not seen, accessed, or used by anyone during the manuscript submission or peer review process. All data are aggregated and anonymized for reporting purposes.

Where do we go from here?

The program has been a success so far, with more than 3.5 million individuals self-reporting their gender identity, ethnic origins and race. Next steps include additional reporting, to better understand the status of our journals, as well as to begin to identify where we can increase our diversity in relation to peer review and authors and continue developing more diverse Editorial Boards. Additional diversity dimensions will be considered as the program proceeds. Stay tuned to find out more!

Further reading


Erin Hill-Parks, PhD


Erin Hill-Parks, PhD

Senior Product Operations Manager, ScienceDirect | Co-lead Elsevier Gender Equity Network