Advancing inclusive practices in research publishing and solutions at Springer Nature

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Tue Feb 20 2024

Author: Guest contributor

To welcome the new year, this blogpost reflects on the progress made to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in research publishing and solutions at Springer Nature in 2023 and looks ahead to our ambitions for 2024. 

This time last year, we published an industry paper in a special issue of Learned Publishing, the official journal of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), on the lessons we’ve learned from an evolving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programme within a global publisher. The paper kickstarted a concerted effort to make sure we communicate to peers, partners, and colleagues just how much work is taking place across the organisation to further DEI and the things we are learning along the way. This post reflects on some of our top achievements of 2023 and how they will inform our next steps over the coming months. 

At Springer Nature, we are committed to playing our part in creating a shared and inclusive future for the global research community that reflects the changing demographics of that community. We are taking a holistic approach, from building inclusive publishing practices working with diverse groups of researchers and contributors – our editors, editorial board members, authors, reviewers, and more – to developing and improving our systems and products so these are accessible to the widest possible audience. Here, we share some concrete examples of how we have enabled DEI with information and resources.

Resources and data: Enabling DEI 

Our recently launched DEI in Research hub brings together a wealth of resources, quick guides, DEI data insights, editor case studies, and more. The hub aims to inform, inspire, and support our editors, peer reviewers, and authors on how to develop inclusive practices and be representative of the global research community. For example, two guides on diversifying editorial boards and peer reviewers provide practical, actionable strategies for making journal editorial boards and peer reviewer populations more representative of the journal’s authorship base and the research community served by the journal. Editors, reviewers, and researchers can also learn about best practice for improving reporting on sex, gender, race, and ethnicity in research studies, and how to improve equity and inclusion in global research collaborations.

To help set a foundation and support understanding of unconscious bias, we have created a short course that explores how unconscious bias works and provides practical actions to challenge our bias and make more deliberate, conscious decisions. In parallel, we are engaging with external editors and internal colleagues to build awareness of demographic shifts in the global research community, disparities and bias in publishing, and the benefits of diversified editorial boards and inclusive publishing practice to journal performance.

Looking ahead into 2024, we intend to produce more targeted training around how disparities and bias can manifest in research publishing processes. We will continue to generate and use DEI data insights, which we already began collecting over 2023, to drive change. We will also further develop resources, quick guides, and editor case studies to support inclusive publishing practices.

Platform improvements

We now support authors to display their name in non-Roman characters on article and chapter HTML pages on SpringerLink,, and (our platforms that publish papers from all 3000+ Springer Nature journals). When submitting their manuscript, authors can provide their name additionally in any languages that use non-Roman script including Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian.

To support all users to be better able to access figures, images, and tables, we are able to now provide alternative text in articles and chapters. This allows users who use assistive technology to read or have read out aloud the description of the figure, image, or table. 

We have also optimised the reading experience for users with visual impairment by testing at 400% zoom before releasing any updates to our platforms. Features that were sometimes inaccessible for users with visual impairment were not getting picked up by our automated tests. We now routinely test manually at 400% zoom levels to ensure an accessible experience for everyone.

Enhancing accessibility in Nature Masterclasses

Nature Masterclasses on-demand is a portfolio of eLearning courses supporting researchers in building skills to be successful. Topics span across the research cycle and content is presented as learning modules containing text, videos, activities, and illustrations. Since our early days, we have been working towards improving the accessibility of our product. In collaboration with the Springer Nature Accessibility Enablement team, we have improved compliance with accessibility guidelines in three main areas of content presentation: Text, activities, and illustrations.

  • Text: We replaced sensory verbs (e.g. hear/see/listen) for a more inclusive learning environment and improved the formatting for readability (e.g. avoid italics, use sans serif fonts). 
  • Illustrations: We checked all 400 illustrations for colour contrast and readability, identifying 70 that needed updating.
  • Activities: We added accessible transcripts, explaining the learning outcomes of activities primarily based on visuals to ensure that the content is equally accessible to all.

These improvements have been made across 15 courses (88 hours of learning). Key learnings from these updates are now integrated into our development process, so we ensure the accessibility of new content to learners using assistive technologies.

We are proud to be able to support learners with disabilities in having an equal learning experience by making course content accessible to all. Accessibility is a continuous journey, and we are constantly exploring ways to improve our content further (updating video content is next on our roadmap). Accessibility is now at the heart of how we work and has already inspired other products within the Nature Masterclasses suite. 

Learn more about DEI at Springer Nature, and explore also our dedicated hub on DEI in research publishing

About the Authors:

Sowmya Swaminathan © Springer Nature 2023

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.

Author image © Springer Nature 2023

Victoria Pavry is the Head of Researcher Training Solutions at Springer Nature, leading the team that develops and delivers the Nature Masterclasses professional development training for early career researchers. As part of her role, Victoria champions ensuring that DEI considerations are woven into all the training materials, both for the experience of the participants and through what is highlighted in the content itself. With a specialism in education and learning design, Victoria has worked in the publishing industry for 18 years, following an MA in Publishing from the University of the Arts, London.

Kiron Jones © Springer Nature 2023

Kiron Jones is the Group Product Manager at Springer Nature, leading the team responsible for growing usage of our articles and books through increased discoverability on search engines and providing relevant onward journeys and recommendations once users are on our content pages across the various platforms. His team advocates for inclusive design practices that create experiences that are usable by all. Kiron has a decade of experience working for research organisations such as funders, researcher universities and publishers in product, programme and communications roles.


Author: Guest contributor

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