Researcher Engagement

Breaking Down Barriers: How and Why Research Societies and Publishers are Embracing Cultural Diversity

Advocating for cultural diversity in research has the potential to ignite transformative change and serve as a powerful catalyst for innovation and advancement. Every culture has its distinctive set of values, traditions, beliefs, and norms, which makes it unique. Championing cultural diversity can have a remarkable impact in elevating the quality of research and publishing.

Publication inequities have been demonstrated time and again in peer-reviewed research. In a recent PLOS ONE article, Liu et al. showed that non-white researchers are underrepresented on journal editorial boards, have longer wait times for publishing their research, and are less likely to be cited than their white counterparts. Such inequalities affect the chances of researchers of certain racial and geographical groups to progress academically and professionally.

For ensuring research that is inclusive and equitable, publishers and research societies should work towards fostering an overall environment that represents and supports different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences.

The positive impact of cultural diversity in research

It is crucial for publishers and societies to investing in cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue for various reasons, as elaborated below.

First of all, recognizing the vast diversity of cultures allows people to learn about and appreciate different beliefs and values. Researchers can develop empathy and tolerance for other cultures, which can reduce discrimination and prejudice. This can facilitate collaboration with researchers from other cultures, especially other countries, and reduce “colonization of science.”

Moreover, when people engage with different cultures, they celebrate differences and broaden their horizons. When people with different backgrounds and experiences come together, they can collaborate and create new solutions to problems. Inclusion can also help empower diverse groups to contribute meaningfully to academic discourse. Researchers from different backgrounds collaborating on a project are more likely to question assumption and biases and this will lead to more accurate and thorough research. A culturally diverse research group is more capable of generating innovative ideas and solutions, of taking a holistic approach to solving problems, and of making richer scientific discoveries.

How supporting cultural diversity benefits research societies and publishers

Supporting cultural diversity can have numerous tangible benefits for research societies and publishers. Below are some ways by which inclusive research and publishing can benefit academic societies.

A more balanced editorial process

A truly diverse management and editorial board composed of persons from all demographic populations will reduce conscious and unconscious biases in editorial workflows. When editors and reviewers from diverse cultural backgrounds participate in the editorial process, they bring their unique experiences and perspectives, which can challenge the biases and assumptions that may be present in the editorial process. This can help to ensure that different viewpoints are considered and that decisions are made based on a more comprehensive and balanced understanding of the topic.

Broader research scope

Embracing cultural diversity expands the scope of research and makes it more relevant and applicable to a wider readership. Editors and reviewers from diverse cultural backgrounds can provide insight and feedback on how research and publications may be perceived and received by different cultural groups, which can help to avoid misunderstandings or unintended offense. Further, researchers from different cultural backgrounds may have different interests or expertise in different methodologies, which can lead to more comprehensive that is relevant and applicable in a broader context.

Access to new markets

Research societies and publishers who support cultural diversity can expand their reach to new markets. By understanding the needs and perspectives of diverse groups, they can develop new products and services that meet specific needs.

When research and publications are reviewed by editors and reviewers from diverse cultural backgrounds, it can help to ensure that the language and format used are inclusive and accessible.

Better recruitment and retention

When research societies and publishers promote cultural diversity, they can attract a wider pool of talented individuals. This not only leads to better recruitment but also improves retention rates as employees feel valued and respected.

Improved reputation

Organizations that promote cultural diversity can enhance their reputation and brand image. This can lead to increased trust and loyalty among customers and stakeholders.

Academic publishers that promote cultural diversity—both within the organization and with the communities they engage in—can establish their presence as inclusive and socially responsible leaders in the academic publishing industry.

How research societies and publishers are supporting cultural diversity

By demonstrating their dedication and commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI), research societies and publishers can prove their spirited initiative and make a meaningful impact on researchers from diverse communities. When creating and implementing a DEI initiative, the organization should openly exchange ideas and expectations and involve as many people as possible to get feedback and perspectives.

Some DEI initiatives for such organizations to consider are as follows:

  • Connecting with local communities and co-creating relevant knowledge bases.
  • Celebrating diverse holidays, e.g., social media posts announcing diverse festivals.
  • Issuing a DEI statement and/or publishing a diversity video on the website.
  • Establishing mentorship programs for underrepresented groups.

See also: Creating Inclusive Learning Resources: Tips for Societies and Publishers

Many research societies and publishers have already committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity in research and academia. Here are a few examples of publishers and research societies embodying the true meaning of DEI in their functioning.

1. Emerald Publishing is making efforts to improve DEI in their publishing norms and editorial boards to support research that aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals. They have made a commitment to Black Lives Matter and have also collaborated with the International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS) Research Evaluation Working Group to achieve greater diversity on their editorial boards.

2. The American Psychological Association (APA) is committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity in psychology research. They are driven by a DEI framework, striving to address systemic racism, for example, by avoiding language that might be offensive to the members of certain communities. The APA also offers Scholarships to Enhance and Empower Diversity to support the mentoring of promising trainees from diverse backgrounds.

3. Springer Nature has launched the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Network to address racism, ensure equitable recruitment, and guarantee accountability in upholding DEI in research publishing. Springer Nature is a signatory to the Publishers Association’s 10 point Inclusivity Action Plan and the Joint Commitment for Action on Inclusion and Diversity in Publishing. They also won Diversity Team of the Year at the British Diversity Awards 2022.

4. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) launched the ACM Diversity and Inclusion Council, which works to promote diversity and inclusion within the organization and the computing community as a whole.

See also: How Academic Societies are Reinventing Membership Experiences

To wrap up

Cultural diversity is a key driver of success for research societies and publishers, as well as for scholars from diverse cultural backgrounds and geographical locations. To ensure fairness and equity in editorial boards, acceptance delays, citations, and recognition, systemic changes are required. By embracing diversity, societies and publishers will not only broaden their readership and increase the relevance of their publications but also contribute to the overall advancement of knowledge and understanding. It is evident that promoting cultural diversity is a mutually beneficial strategy for academic publishers and the broader scholarly community.

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