The University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa is in a prime location to conduct oceanographic research and features a wealth of scientific expertise. However, as…
The Black Lives Matter movement in the US and elsewhere has rightly brought about a much-needed reexamination of deeply rooted issues around diversity and equity for minorities and marginalized populations. Structural racism and other inequities, for example around gender or status, continue to affect academia world-wide. At PLOS we recognize that we can do better — our journals can and must play a role in addressing concerns around diversity, equity and inclusion.
These are not new concerns, and we have been working to make our journals a home for diverse voices. However, we recognize that we need to step up our efforts in a number of areas and commit to doing so. For our journals, this means:
- We will assess and survey the diversity of our contributors, from the thousands of Academic Editors handling submissions at our journals to our authors and reviewers. This will establish a baseline and allow us to hold ourselves accountable for making measurable positive changes.
- We need to improve the diversity of our journals and their leadership. This includes our internal staff but also our Academic Editors appointed to senior roles. We need to ensure that our journals are representative of broader society as well as the academic community, and that the voices of different communities or groups of researchers are heard and play an integral role in our journals. We commit to proactively seeking out underrepresented communities to redress the balance.
- We will continue our efforts to ensure that all manuscript handling processes are set up to recognize and minimize bias. We are reflecting internally on how we can improve our understanding of these issues and minimise any of our own biases, and will work with our Academic Editors and peer reviewers to address any form of bias against authors or their origin in the handling of submitted manuscripts.
- Within the scope of each of our journals we aim to be a publishing platform for research that studies inequalities, racism, and inequities facing minority and/or marginalized populations. In doing so, we need to ensure that the study of these populations recognizes the problem of racism and inequalities, and that the topic is covered appropriately in published papers. We need to be mindful of inappropriate discussions of race in relationship with genetics traits for example. Inequalities and racism do affect the well-being of minority populations, and this needs to be considered in public health research settings as well.
- We have the obligation to continue to uphold the highest standards of ethics. Research about minorities or other affected populations needs to be conducted to the highest editorial standards and ethics guidelines, and should award credit to contributors from these communities as appropriate. We will not publish research intended to directly support oppression or persecution.
Some of these commitments are items that we will be able to address swiftly, whereas others will take more time to achieve. This topic will therefore be a regular feature on PLOS Blogs, so watch this space. We are committed to pursue these activities in the short as well as long term, and to facilitate change not just at PLOS’ journals, but also in the broader academic community where possible. We count on your support in this endeavor and will appreciate any feedback, help or suggestions for specific actions to take. Thank you!