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Open Access Week 2020: Building Equity and Inclusivity in Science

It’s the start of Open Access Week 2020 and this year’s theme focuses on “Open with Purpose” with equity and inclusivity as the focal point for the third consecutive year.

Why are we still talking about this?

At this time, the need for international collaboration and access without restrictions is acutely apparent with COVID-19 pausing regular activities, such as conferences, libraries and other in person events. Building equity and inclusivity will create a stronger environment for scientists to ask questions or see problems from a different perspective. It’s also integral for organizations to reflect on what they can do to help researchers from every background get their research to the communities that need it.

Looking to an inclusive future
OA helps break down many of the barriers researchers face by sharing their findings to a vast readership. Yet, a number of hurdles still stand between them and the final article. At PLOS, we support researchers at every stage of their career, research and discipline. Open Science further increases transparency and visibility of their work so that all researchers can more easily be recognized for their contributions. With a host of journals and a variety of article types and early sharing methods such as preprints and preregistered reports — researchers will have the opportunity to showcase the full breadth of their findings. 

We recognize that as an organization we can do much more to assist those in the scientific community that experience challenges due to their gender, race, culture and more. In a blog post by Editorial Director Joerg Heber, he outlines our support for a diverse and inclusive community and the areas we’ll continue to improve on to recognize and minimize bias, further diversify our leadership and contributors.

Be counted for your work

OA provides the community with the accessibility to your research to see, cite, and share it. Your research and contributions in the community are vital to scientific advancements. Be proud, in whatever stage of your career, of what you’ve achieved and get the recognition for your contributions, be that through your ORCID iD or citations. The OA community is increasingly adapting to the needs of ECRs. Transparency and early sharing practices for every stage of the research process are becoming increasingly common to support researchers in demonstrating their contributions, beyond just publications. Be the first to report your findings with preprints and preregistration, just two ways in which you can highlight your progress early when you’re applying for funding and new positions. 

PLOS is always searching for new ways we can make publishing and acknowledging your work easier. Whether that means building a more inclusive framework to ensure credit is shared equitably among contributors, or supporting researchers in making their work more visible.  In a new policy announced last week, we’re providing better support to transgender authors with live articles published under names that do not reflect their identity. Our staff will be happy to help update your records and help you keep your previous credits. 

Publishing an academic study is an achievement for researchers to be proud of, and it is important that the name on the paper reflects who the authors are. 

Implementing name changes for published transgender authors

Open Access is more important than ever

In a time where COVID-19 proves to be a challenging obstacle with restrictions to labs and libraries, it is integral that we’re inclusive of the many groups in the scientific community — researchers around the world need access to content anywhere, anytime. OA is the key to providing fast, public access to research with no restrictions or embargoes. The global benefit of open research is powerful and will help maintain the continuation of scientific advancements.

At the heart of inclusivity, cost plays a major role in separating researchers from the Open Access journals they would like to publish in. Over this year we’ve made great strides in partnering with institutions and consortia to bridge the gap between cost for prospective PLOS authors. And we’re continuing to experiment with new models that get closer to a truly open to read, open to publish ideal, equitably distributing the costs of publishing so that the burden of payment doesn’t fall on authors. 

Next steps for a fair and diverse future

We will continue to improve our processes and endeavour to be advocates for equity and inclusivity in OA and the broader academic community. Beyond 2020, scholarly communication will need to continue the work around creating inclusive environments for researchers by examining the struggles of systemic inequities, acknowledge bias by working with editors and reviewers, and ultimately take action to create a more accessible future for all. More updates to come! 

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