Insights into diversity, equity & inclusion in the global research community

Springer Nature Group
By: Ritu Dhand and Sowmya Swaminathan, Wed Jun 21 2023

A new Springer Nature report published today shares insights into diversity, equity and inclusion across the global research community. To mark the launch, we are sharing the report’s foreword from Ritu Dhand, Chief Scientific Officer at Springer Nature and Sowmya Swaminathan, Chair of Springer Nature’s Research & Solutions DEI Programme. 

At Springer Nature, we are proud to play an active role in addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in research. As one of our highest strategic priorities, we are committed to integrating DEI values into how we work and what we create and publish – across our content, products, platforms, and services. Our commitment is to champion DEI in the communities we serve; eliminate barriers to creating, discovering, and using knowledge; and support equitable outcomes in learning and scholarship.1

As part of our ongoing efforts, we are pleased to publish this report on the perceptions and experiences of nearly 5,000 researchers, captured through an online survey and series of interviews. This report, inspired by our commitment to understand structural barriers, is by no means the first report on this topic. There have been several industry resources released to understand DEI in recent years2, and we hope this new data can further inform and advance collaborative action. Although the majority were from the US and Europe, the demographics of our respondents do represent a breadth of researchers in terms of career stage, gender, disability, race, and ethnic origin. Wherever possible, we have noted areas where opinions between groups of researchers differed from the aggregate, which we hope helps to illustrate that the experience of DEI efforts is not monolithic and as a result, solutions cannot take a one-size fits all approach. 

Overall, there are some alarming headlines in our report. Corroborating findings from other surveys, there is widespread discrimination, harassment, and bullying reported by researchers across all demographics. Perhaps not surprisingly, researchers who identify as part of an underrepresented group – notably by gender, ethnicity, or race – are experiencing even more instances of such behaviours. In many cases, it appears that these experiences are going unreported indicating that much more work is needed to reform the research climate. Many underrepresented groups feel that DEI initiatives are failing to meet their needs, which is a discouraging message for all those who support researchers and efforts to improve the research environment. 

We also found it notable that there was limited discussion on the specific challenges faced by different geographical regions. This may reflect the predominantly Western demographics of our survey respondents, but nevertheless this indicates there is more to do to raise awareness among all groups, including those who may not be directly affected by barriers.

We were particularly keen to draw out the views of early career researchers (ECRs). As a cohort, this group experiences higher levels of discrimination, bullying, and harassment3; we wanted to explore the particular DEI challenges and structural barriers that ECRs encounter, including in recruitment and career advancement. Our ECR interviews emphasise the need for ongoing, proactive discussions about DEI at all career stages, and active support by institutional leaders to foster more inclusive research cultures. 

Springer Nature remains committed to improving the quality and impact of research, and to working collaboratively to reform research culture and create a more inclusive and equitable research ecosystem4. We unequivocally condemn harassment, bullying and discrimination and call on all stakeholders to redouble efforts to improve research culture.  We are committed to understanding structural barriers to equality in the research communities we work with5. As a publisher, we see opportunities to embed inclusive publishing practices within our programmes, and raise awareness through education and training for editors, reviewers, and researchers. We recognise the potential impact that publishing on DEI topics can have on research culture and we are committed to advocating for these issues in the community.  We are also committed to amplifying underrepresented voices and putting a spotlight on the need for representation in research through our journalism, our journals, and books publishing programmes. 

Our report aims to shed light on the needs of underrepresented groups in the research community. To deliver a diverse and inclusive global research culture, it is critical to make all researchers – especially those from dominant groups – aware of the experiences of underrepresented communities. Exploring the specific needs of underrepresented ECRs and their suggestions for advancing DEI can allow us to take positive action. Together, we can shape a research future that has a positive impact for all.

References and further information

For more information and to access the full report, please visit this link.


Ritu and Sowmya

Author: Ritu Dhand and Sowmya Swaminathan

Ritu Dhand is Chief Scientific Officer at Springer Nature.

Ritu is responsible for representing Springer Nature externally, focusing on promoting and driving external editorial excellence, in partnership with all the journal publishers across Springer and BMC journals. 

Before taking on the role of Chief Scientific Officer in January 2022, Ritu served as Nature Editorial Director, overseeing editorial strategy and management of Nature, Nature Communications and the Nature Research and Review Journals. Ritu studied Genetics at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London and undertook a masters in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University College, London.

Sowmya Swaminathan is Chair of Springer Nature’s Research DEI Programme and a member of Springer Nature’s DEI Council.  

She leads Springer Nature’s efforts to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion in Springer Nature’s research publishing activities.  She was previously Head of Editorial Policy & Research Integrity for Nature Portfolio where she was responsible for editorial policy development, including policies and initiatives that advance transparency, integrity, open research practices and inclusion in scholarly publishing. 

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