Following Up on ACS Publications’ Diversity Initiatives - ACS Axial
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Following Up on ACS Publications’ Diversity Initiatives

In June of 2020, ACS Publications journals published a special joint editorial that acknowledged and condemned the systemic racism afflicting the scientific community.

The editorial also committed ACS Publications to take several steps to address the bias and inequity in our journals.

  • Gathering and making public our baseline statistics on diversity within our journals, encompassing our Editors, advisors, reviewers, and authors; annually reporting on progress.
  • Training new and existing Editors to recognize and interrupt bias in peer review
  • Including the diversity of journal contributors as an explicit measurement of Editor-in-Chief performance
  • Appointing an ombudsperson to serve as a liaison between Editors and our Community
  • Developing an actionable diversity plan for each ACS journal

ACS Publications’ staff have spent the past eight months working on fulfilling those objectives. These goals represent many inter-related processes that require careful execution. The work is ongoing, but we’d like to share the progress we’ve made in these fields, in the interest of transparency.

Here is the current state of each of these five core initiatives:

  • Gathering baseline statistics on diversity within our journals: This initiative is an essential first step toward the goals outlined in our joint editorial. Beginning this week, we will send out surveys to authors of submitted manuscripts and reviewers to collect diversity data. User data will be kept anonymous and used only in aggregate for reporting purposes.  The data collected will inform the completion of the other goals on this list, allowing us to spot areas where improvement is needed to measure our progress on combating bias over time.
  • Bias training for Editors: ACS Publications will soon begin providing foundational diversity and inclusion training to each of nearly 700 journal editors. The training is being conducted by Diversity and Inclusion Strategist La’Wana Harris in conjunction with the Education Division of the American Chemical Society, under the leadership of the division’s Executive Vice President LaTrease Garrison. These interactive sessions will provide a baseline and common framework for future learning opportunities specific to the editorial process. The same training will be provided to ACS volunteers including Technical Division, local section, and committee leadership in support of a shared, consistent approach across the Society.
  • Diversity as an EIC performance metric: The baseline data we collect, coupled with the broad makeup of the community a journal serves, will help determine this metric. Once we’ve determined the appropriate targets, they will need to be vetted by ACS Publications’ Joint Board-Council Committee on Publications.
  • Appointing an ombudsperson: ACS Publications has held meetings with the International Ombudsman Association to learn more about the function of an ombudsperson role and how best to implement and support such a position. We are currently working toward finalizing a job description for this new role.
  • Developing each ACS journal’s diversity plan: ACS Publications is developing a range of actions that our journals can implement to improve their contributors’ diversity. Editors will work with ACS Publications team members to tailor the plan for their journals. This effort relies on having baseline diversity statistics and will begin in earnest once ACS Publications has collected this information, though planning efforts are already underway.

In addition to the initiatives above, ACS Publications led the market in creating a tool to support author name changes, a move that benefits any researcher changing their name for reasons such as gender identity, religious conversion, marriage or divorce, and more. Today, more than 100 ACS Publications articles have had their authors’ names changed under this new policy. This change has also inspired other scientific publishers, leading to broader adoption of similar policies.

ACS Publications remains committed to addressing issues of bias and discrimination in scientific publishing. Recently, the ACS board voted to modify our existing core value of “Diversity, Inclusion and Respect” to include Equity. The revised core value, “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Respect” (DEIR), better captures our belief in diversity in all its forms. The steps listed above are just the beginning of a journey.

Continue to check ACS Axial for future updates on our efforts to become more inclusive and respectful of people of all backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and ideas.

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