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Following through on our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Author: Suzanne Farley, Editorial Director, PLOS

Last year, my predecessor outlined five key areas in which PLOS would redouble its efforts to make our journals a home for diverse voices. So how have we done?

Establishing our baseline was up first: we’ve started to manually collate demographic data, while building new tech to streamline the process and ensure personal privacy is protected. Data about PLOS’ in-house leadership team are already feeding into hiring practices aimed at increasing the number of historically underrepresented employees. And a survey of our 10,000-strong Editorial Board members will be deployed soon. 

An updated workflow for recruitment of new Editorial Board members ensures we’re casting a wider net. (Want to be considered? Sign-up here!) Our new editorial partners are helping us publish more research on inequalities, racism, and inequities facing minority and/or marginalized populations. Recent Collections on Health & Health Care in Gender Diverse Communities, Health Inequities and Disparities Research, Trafficking, Exploitation and Health and Diagnostic Tests in Low-Resource Settings showcase these efforts.

The new PLOS Scientific Advisory Council is bringing the expertise of active researchers at different career stages and geographic areas to bear on organisational strategy. A key strategic pillar has been the launch of new journals: PLOS Climate, PLOS Sustainability and Transformation, PLOS Water, PLOS Digital Health and PLOS Global Public Health. Unified in addressing global health and environmental challenges from diverse, local perspectives, the new journals help us expand our international footprint. In this way, we ensure that we’re co-creating—not dictating—paths to Open Science that work for diverse communities. Formal partnerships, such as that with TCC Africa, are another way in which local needs can more-fully inform our ways of working.

Moving upstream in the research cycle, we’re hoping to help inculcate change in the way research is conducted, as well as how it’s communicated. A new policy on inclusivity in global research has just been rolled out. ‘Parachute’ or ‘helicopter research’ occurs when researchers travel to under-resourced communities, conduct their studies and leave, often with little or poor understanding or involvement of the communities they studied, and few direct benefits to local participants. Prompting PLOS authors to consider these issues is a small first step towards addressing neo-colonialism in science. 

That publishing open access allows the benefits of research to be realised by a broader range of stakeholders is undeniable. But the predominant business model—an article-processing charge (APC) paid by an individual researcher—is a key stumbling block to participation. So PLOS has been experimenting with new payment paradigms. Our new Global Equity and Community Action Publishing models, for example, expand equitable partnership opportunities for researchers’ institutions to eliminate author-facing charges. Global Equity provides affordable pricing tiers reflective of regional economies in every area of the world while Community Action Publishing more fairly distributes the cost of selective publishing.

As well as working on our own policies, processes and people, we’ll continue to use our platforms to amplify the voices of others who are working to dismantle structural inequities. If you’re interested in hearing more, check out the inclusion-themed discussions that were part of our recent Scientists for Open Science event. Or blog posts describing support for a new generation of black oceanographers and women in the palaeosciences

We’ve made a great start on our commitments—but there’s much more to do. A newly-created Steering Committee will oversee all PLOS’ DEI-related initiatives, and we’ll continue to report our progress to you. As someone who’s only recently joined PLOS, it’s so refreshing to see DEI being truly centered, initiatives being properly resourced, and organisation-wide priority being given to this important work.

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