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Contemporary Concepts in Publishing

Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Publishing


Kathryn Muehlberger, Client Communication Specialist

August 2020

In the wake of recent events regarding the racial injustice worldwide, publishing companies are speaking out and voicing their alliance. CEOs and publishing staff have engaged in social media, press releases, newsletters, and other platforms to amplify their stand against racism and discrimination.

The majority of employees in the corporate publishing industry are predominantly white due to traditional hiring practices. Minorities tend to be ‘tokenized’ if they are one of the few hired, particularly so the company looks more diverse; however, these companies frequently do not take further action. As indicated in a news article by the American non-profit organization, National Public Radio, “…identifying as a person of color doesn't automatically render a publicist culturally competent in promoting books by diverse writers.” However, these companies are starting to change their process and open up for more diverse writers and staff.

In response to recent events and the general movement for diversity, equity and inclusion, publishers and scholarly institutions can no longer wait to evolve. Academia and the publishing industry must change. Certain large-scale publishers are recognizing this progress for change for example, Elsevier’s CEO made a statement, “Confronted with the stark reality of systemic inequality in society, we need to reexamine Elsevier’s role in research and health and how we can make an active and positive contribution to accelerate equity, inclusion and diversity within our business and in the communities we serve.”

Nature Publishing as well made a statement: “We recognize that Nature is one of the white institutions that is responsible for bias in research and scholarship. The enterprise of science has been — and remains — complicit in systemic racism, and it must strive harder to correct those injustices and amplify marginalized voices. At Nature, we will redouble our efforts to do so, and commit to establishing a process that will hold us to account on the many changes we need to make.”

While many companies in the publishing world seek to be more inclusive and diverse, it is important to understand that certain companies may simply be unaware and/or do not have the resources to begin to diversify their content A few ways they are implementing change is having more diverse writing staff that can educate their employees on approaching these issues. Other publishers are featuring open access collections of articles written by minority authors to give readers a chance to be educated using complementary material. The goal is to have a plethora of information so everyone can learn and develop their own views on these issues.

While racial injustice will not change overnight, it is important for publishing companies to create and share literature, articles, and much more to their readers. This opens up the dialogue even further so others can learn and share their opinions and experiences. We hope this will produce positive change and we can slowly start moving towards the right direction.

To learn more about diversity, see below:
Black Lives Matter: Articles on Protest, Policing & Punishment
‘A Conflicted Cultural Force’: What It’s Like to Be Black in Publishing
Academia Isn’t a Safe Haven for Conversations About Race and Racism
Archives: Diversity and Inclusion

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