Making your journal an inclusive home for authors and readers from the Global South — hear from an editor who’s done it

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Mon Mar 25 2024

Author: Guest contributor

What does it take to make your journal an inclusive home for research from the Global South? At the International Journal of Primatology, Editor-in-Chief Professor Joanna M. Setchell, has taken active steps from diversifying editorial board members and reviewers to including translations and introducing double anonymous review. 

Tell us a little bit about your journal — its vision, scope, and authorship base.

The International Journal of Primatology (IJP) focuses on current research in fundamental primatology. It was founded in 1980 and is the official journal of the International Primatological Society.

In the past year we have received submissions from corresponding authors in 33 countries, including all major regions where primates are found in the wild. The top five countries in terms of submissions are the United States of America, Brazil, United Kingdom, China, and India. We have readers in more than 200 countries.

We seek to accept articles if we can, and our editors and reviewers work with authors to improve their manuscript. We do not have a target for rejection. 

So, your journal has taken a deliberate set of actions to address diversity, and inclusion in the journal. Tell us about what you did and why you felt addressing these issues was an important step for the journal.

Like other sciences, primatology suffers from many injustices, including biases in who participates and how, who sets the research agenda, and who benefits. Most wild primates inhabit low- or middle-income countries, while research published in primatology is largely led by researchers from high-income countries. Moreover, within a country, primates often share space with marginalised communities. Addressing these issues is important because they harm:

  • Primatologists, by limiting the career prospects of primatologists from under-represented groups. 
  • Primatology, by limiting the diversity of experience and approaches in our discipline.
  • Primates, because a lack of inclusion leads to conservation failure.

In the time that I’ve been editor of IJP, we’ve:

  1. Provided detailed instructions for authors and guidelines for reviewers, to demystify the processes of writing and reviewing articles. We also remind reviewers to focus on the science rather than the language, author identity or affiliation.
  2. Adopted double-blind reviewing1, in which reviewers do not know the identities of the authors and vice versa. This helps to address biases and perceptions of bias in the peer review process based on characteristics of the author.
  3. Examined our submissions, acceptance rates, and invitations to review with respect to gender and the author’s country of affiliation2. We receive far fewer submissions from primate range countries than from non-range countries, and far fewer submissions from low and middle-income countries than from high-income countries. These patterns are compounded by lower rates of acceptance for authors in range countries, and in low or middle-income countries. This under-representation of some groups in the publication system is systematic and self-reinforcing, and led to further actions:
    DEI in south global © Springer Nature 2023
  4. Diversified our Associate Editors. Editors are the gatekeepers of science and act as ambassadors for the journal. The five current Associate Editors are from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. They reflect the global nature of our discipline.
  5. Ensured gender parity and improved geographical diversity in our Editorial Board. The board is now gender-balanced and broadly reflects submissions in terms of continent of affiliation and whether researchers are affiliated to an institution in a primate range country. 
  6. Diversified our reviewer pool. We ask editors to ensure that they consider experts from outside North America and Europe and from other under-represented groups in science when inviting people to review manuscripts. We also ask reviewers to suggest alternative reviewers from under-represented groups in primatology.
  7. Introduced an optional Inclusion and Diversity statement to raise awareness of issues of ‘parachute’ or ‘helicopter’ science, and promote equitable partnerships in the conceptualisation, design, conduct and publication of research. Inclusion and Diversity statements also highlight the inclusion of authors who self-identify as an underrepresented ethnic minority in science, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or as living with a disability. 
  8. Encouraged translations. We publish abstracts in languages other than English in the main text. We also encourage authors to translate their entire manuscript in the supplementary material, and to provide relevant summaries in any language. This is a small step to addressing the effects of the hegemony of the English language in science has on researchers for whom English is not a primary language. 

What is the impact on the journal of these actions?

These actions have opened up discussion at the International Primatological Society conferences and prompted a lot of positive feedback. We’ll need to wait a few more years to measure the impacts formally, and of course we don’t have a control group.

It’s important to always bear in mind that there are no quick fixes, and that the actions we have put in place are by no means solutions to major issues of systematic inequity in science. We are continually seeking ways to improve equity and inclusion.

What are the journal’s future plans?

We’re planning a roundtable on the future of the journal at the next International Primatological Society meeting in 2025, and I’ll be seeking feedback online, too, because the costs and practicalities of attending conferences exclude many primatologists. I’m particularly interested in discussing further actions around peer review and language hegemony.

We’re a subscription journal, with an Open Access option. Open Access articles are read more and cited more often. However, Article Processing Charges are a major problem for scientists in lower and middle-income countries, and for other under-represented groups in science, and I will continue to highlight the inadequacy of waivers and discounts designed to address this.

Rejecting manuscripts because the study design is flawed is very painful, because I know that they are often based on a huge amount of effort, and often on very challenging fieldwork. One possible way to address that is via pre-registration of study plans, which allows expert peer review at a point when authors can still improve their study design. Pre-registration is not common in primatology, for a variety of reasons, but it’s also not easily available. Making it available might encourage people to use it.

About the author
Prof. Joanna M Setchell © Springer Nature 2023

Prof. Joanna M. Setchell (Jo, she/her) obtained her PhD in Zoology from the University of Cambridge, UK, and is a Professor of Anthropology at Durham University, UK where she teaches biological and evolutionary anthropology. She has also conducted extensive research in primate evolutionary ecology. This work is highly collaborative and international, employing a range of methods to address questions relating to reproductive strategies, life history, sexual selection, and signalling in primates. Her current research integrates biological and social anthropology to understand the sustainability of human—wildlife interactions, and thus promote coexistence. 

Jo is committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is a past Vice-President of the International Primatological Society and a past President of the Primate Society of Great Britain. She is a member of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group Section for Human-Primate Interactions. Her book, Studying Primates: How to Design, Conduct and Report Primatological Research is based on her experience as a researcher, teacher, author, and editor, and has been described as “indispensable for those teaching and engaging in primatological research.”

 With thanks to Adam Gordon.


Author: Guest contributor

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