One year on: our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in research publishing

Springer Nature Group
By: Sowmya Swaminathan , Mon Sep 26 2022

September 2022 marks a year since we announced the steps we are taking as part of our formal commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) across our research publishing and solutions activities. To find out more about our commitments, visit our DEI website for an introduction to our strategy. 

There’s a lot to be proud of when we look at what we have accomplished. It is not always easy, but we are learning about and forging social connections across different parts of the business. This work is central to both finding greater purpose in the work we do, and empowering the community of which we are a part. 

Below, we outline some of the progress we have in the 12 short months across the four pillars of the programme.

1. Becoming intentionally inclusive

We know that for science to be more inclusive the research community needs to be more  representative, and we are committed to amplifying under-represented voices and perspectives. 

What we’ve done: 

  • Collected data about contributors to Nature Conferences, to better understand representation. This so far shows we have made year on-year progress and have achieved a near 50/50 gender balance across events, organisers, keynotes, plenaries and short talks.
  • Introduced a new DEI communications toolkit for Research Publishing to support colleagues when communicating Springer Nature’s DEI commitments to their external stakeholders. 
  • Compiled a selection of best practice case studies that exemplify editorial practices and approaches to inspire and encourage change.
  • Created a recruitment framework and toolkit to support inclusive recruitment practices for external editors-in-chief.

2. Engaging our communities and stakeholders

We know that to bring out systemic change, we must work together across the research community and publishing industry.

What we’ve done:

3. Improving research and publishing practice through policy 

A further instrument for change we have at our disposal is our editorial policies, something we have successfully used to encourage take up of reproducibility and open research practices. 

What we’ve done:

4. Communicating our position and ambition

Our community needs to know that we stand firmly behind the need to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in science and are developing new resources, including training and guidance materials, products and services to help us on this journey. 

What we’ve done:

  • Developed DEI statements for inclusion in any new key contracts signed by external editors or book authors, as well as in the editor’s code of conduct and peer review policy and guidance. 
  • Created recruitment frameworks on how to encourage diversity in Editorial Board Members as well as best practice recommendations for the recruitment of peer reviewers.

Working together to progress our DEI strategy

The achievements captured above do not give full credit to all the ways in which we are engaging with DEI across the business, nor the many people who have contributed over the past year and beyond. 

Our journals, books and magazines are elevating issues of diversity, representation, equity, justice and much more through their content and recognising them in their processes. These values are really seeping into the fabric of the organisation, and we are beginning to see some great examples of synergy and collaboration across teams and programmes.

Coming up later in 2022

We have made great progress on a number of other resources which we expect to release later this year, including an inclusive language guide and sensitivity reading guide. 

While we’re proud of our achievements so far, we have a long way to go and we look forward to continuing this work, which is an important part of our organisation’s purpose and impact. We would like to thank our colleagues across the business whose enormous effort and contribution has made our progress in these areas possible. 

Sowmya Swaminathan

Author: Sowmya Swaminathan

Dr. Sowmya Swaminathan is Director, External DEI, Research at Springer Nature and a member of Springer Nature’s DEI Council. She leads Springer Nature’s efforts to bring a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens to research publishing activities across the journals and books publishing programme. She was previously Head of Editorial Policy & Research Integrity for Nature Portfolio where she was responsible for policies and initiatives that advance transparency, integrity, open research practices and inclusion in scholarly publishing. She began her career in scholarly publishing as an editor at Nature Cell Biology where she subsequently served as Chief Editor for 6 years. Prior to entering scholarly publishing, Sowmya completed her PhD at the University of Chicago and carried out postdoctoral training at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany.

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