Furthering our diversity, equity and inclusion commitment in research publishing

Springer Nature Group
By: Sowmya Swaminathan and Steven Inchcoombe, Sun Sep 19 2021

Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is very important to us at Springer Nature and we know that turning a commitment into reality requires hard work. DEI is one of our highest strategic priorities, and - since we appointed our first Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion in 2018, we have developed strategies that aim to create an inclusive company culture where all our employees can thrive. We have set targets for representation in leadership and created a dedicated DEI team as well as a set of focused cross-business working groups and employee networks that have helped us identify the areas where we must do more. 

Earlier this year, we announced our commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the communities we serve across Springer Nature Group, and also provided information on how we are living this commitment internally as a global company that operates in over 50 countries and employs nearly 10,000 people. 

We are delighted to share now more details on the initiatives and activities we are undertaking across the largest part of the Group, our research publishing business, to deliver on this commitment. 

Why are we dedicating a whole blog to informing on activity within just one area of the business? Our research publishing business is where we interact with millions of people from across the research community every day.  We connect with them as authors, as peer reviewers, as editors of our journals, as readers and as users of our platforms where they access the research we have published.  This means that we have the opportunity to influence behaviour on a wide scale and affect real change.

At the heart of our approach is a commitment to integrate the values of diversity, equity and inclusion into the way we work and what we create and publish – across our content, products, platforms and services.

Our activity falls into four pillars. It represents a long term, multi-year commitment and initiatives and monitoring will be put in place to help us achieve them. Activity is already underway; some completed, others coming up and examples of both are set out below. However these are not exhaustive and more will follow as our programme develops. 

1.      Becoming intentionally inclusive

Unfortunately, history shows us that greater inclusivity doesn’t just happen. We know that for science to be more inclusive researchers, editors, peer reviewers need to be more diverse and we are committed to amplifying underrepresented voices and perspectives.  We have an important role to play here by making sure this diversity is reflected in our recruitment practices for external editorial stakeholders, in the topics we cover in our journals, books and magazines, and in our own teams. 

What we’ve done. Signed up to become a Valuable 500 company, an initiative committed to addressing disability inclusion and introduced a Diversity Policy and Code of Conduct for all Springer Nature’s scholarly events.

Coming up. Develop inclusive recruitment practices and design inclusive training workshops, events, platforms and systems. 

2.      Engaging our communities and stakeholders to support collaborative action

Bringing about systemic change requires all of us working together across the research ecosystem and taking every opportunity we can to assert these values and help them take root.  We are supporting our external editorial communities in making diversity, equity and inclusion core values and to promote these values through our broader networks in the academic research community.  

What we’ve done. Signed up to the Joint Commitment for Action on Inclusion and Diversity in Publishing, created a dedicated US Research Advisory Council so we can better engage and collaborate with diverse stakeholder groups in the US, continue to partner with Research4Life so research can be accessed in places where it is needed but may be unaffordable, and offer APC waivers for authors wishing to publish open access but who lack the funds to do so.  

Coming up. Extend our early career researcher mentorship programmes, engage with the funder community, seek out and collaborate with other industry organizations working on DEI 

3.      Improving research and publishing practices 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. Announced a new inclusive author name change policy that means that trans authors no longer face a lengthy and public process, often with associated personal and professional risk, when seeking to correct their publication record. Our new policy aims to ensure they feel supported, welcome and safe, and importantly properly accredited and recognised for their full body of academic research and contribution to the development of science and society. 

Coming up. Review our policies on the impact of research on race, gender, sexuality, disability, provide guidance on people-first & identity-first language, enable reporting on sex, gender, race and ethnicity in research.

4.      Communicating our position and ambition

Finally, we need to communicate these commitments to DEI to our external networks in the research community, including our editorial stakeholders - be they authors, editors, peer reviewers and society partners. 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. 

We are also committed to ensuring that the next generation of researchers find themselves working in a more inclusive environment.

What we’ve done. Our journals have developed mentoring programmes and offer initiatives for early career researchers around the globe to provide insights and training into the peer review, editorial and publishing process.

Coming up. Develop programmes to raise visibility of editorial and journalism roles at Springer Nature to under-represented groups, and update our contracts and guidance.

The programme will be overseen by Springer Nature’s dedicated DEI Council, chaired by Rachel Jacobs, the Springer Nature Management Board member responsible for DEI,  thereby ensuring that we remain targeted and focused on delivering real change.

Our progress also needs to be tracked and so a specific project on data collection is also underway. Gathering this will take time in some areas, and in some cases outcomes may be driven by factors outside of our control but will be key to monitoring our success.

We are grateful for the commitment and enthusiasm of our colleagues across the organization as we embark on a multi-year programme for change.  By working together to make the research ecosystem more inclusive and equitable, we believe we can create a research future that is more open, more fulfilling, and has an even greater positive impact for all.


For more on actions we have taken as part of our DEI programmes, see these other relevant blogs and pages: 

Springer Nature’s diversity, equity and inclusion homepagePartnership  with the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences  and with Afroscientric to develop mentoring programmes and workshops.  

Programme for Early Career Researchers run by Nature Communications now expanding across more Nature Portfolio journals

Sowmya and Steven

Author: Sowmya Swaminathan and Steven Inchcoombe

Sowmya Swaminathan is Head of Editorial Policy & Research Integrity for Nature Research

Sowmya is responsible for editorial policy development, including policies and initiatives that advance transparency, integrity, open research practices and inclusion in scholarly publishing.  She represents Nature and Springer Nature on multiple community and industry forums and collaborations, and most recently been involved in the development of The MDAR Framework, aligned minimum standards for transparent reporting and open research practices in the life sciences.  Sowmya is the Chair of Springer Nature’s Research Publishing DEI Programme and a member of the Springer Nature DEI Council.

Steven Inchcoombe is Chief Publishing Officer at Springer Nature.

Steven is responsible for all Springer Nature’s research publishing and editorial activities. Previously Steven was CEO at Nature Publishing Group and President of Scientific American. Prior to that Steven was Publisher at the Financial Times, led ft.com and spent 10 years in a variety of roles at financial database business IDC ultimately responsible for the company’s strategy. Steven was awarded a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford, where he read Physics and later qualified as a chartered accountant with PWC.