Angewandte Chemie recently published a now-deleted article by Tomáš Hudlický that argued that diversity initiatives can only be a negative influence on the field of chemistry. I’ve had many conversations about this article with other researchers who have taken the time to thoughtfully detail the endless problems with his perspective. These conversations made me want to focus on what editors and reviewers for scientific journals should be doing to prevent this from happening in the first place.
When I get a manuscript as an associate editor, I specifically look for bias, bigotry, and unfounded assumptions/opinions. I do all of this before sending the article out for peer review. If you’re an editor and you’re not doing that, then you’re part of the problem.
When I send out a manuscript for review, I select reviewers with diversity as a priority. These manuscripts only survive peer-review when you send a manuscript to a group of reviewers just like Hudlický for review. If you aren’t ensuring that your reviewers are diverse, then you’re part of the problem.
When I receive reviews, I screen them for bias and if a reviewer was not objective, I seek additional reviews. If I do share the biased review with the author, I add comments that they should disregard the problematic comment. If you don’t screen reviews, then you’re part of the problem.
If you find a reviewer provided biased feedback to authors, tell your editor-in-chief and other associate editors and block those reviewers from receiving future manuscripts for review. If you don’t proactively root this behavior out of our systems, then you’re part of the problem.
As a reviewer, read everything. Treat every word as a deliberate choice by the authors and if you have any issues, flag them and say why. Err on the side of caution. Tell the editor not to accept without appropriate revision. If you don’t speak up, then you’re part of the problem.
Don’t have time right now to review that new manuscript in your inbox? No problem! You have the ability to help editors diversify reviewer pools by recommending alternative candidates to review in your place. If you’re not suggesting diverse new reviewers, then you’re part of the problem.
Is all of this a lot of extra work on top of our day jobs? Yes. Is it a critical responsibility as editors for scientific journals? Yes. If you aren’t willing to do the hard part of this job, then step aside and give someone else a chance. You’re part of the problem.
Dr. Pamela Tadross is an Associate Editor of Organic Process Research & Development.