52 academic publishers have collectively agreed to adopt new guidance on the way they collect demographics data. The standardised questions will be used to help the industry gain a clearer picture of where action is needed to reduce biases.

Over the last two years, the Royal Society of Chemistry has brought together dozens of publishing organisations representing over 15,000 journals – more than half of the world’s peer-reviewed publications – in a joint effort to promote inclusion and diversity in publishing. The collaborative project has now worked with members of the research community and an expert on demographic data collection to set questions on gender identity, race and ethnicity. The questions will help the publishers to gather comparable data on authors, reviewers and editors that will help to highlight areas where action is required to address biases.

The work is a ‘great start’ says RSC ethics specialist Nicola Nugent, who notes that the organisation plans further work towards improving data collection and eliminating biases experienced by all underrepresented groups in the research community.

‘Without robust diversity data we cannot begin to define where problems such as bias lie in scholarly publishing – let alone put in place meaningful actions,’ said Nugent. ‘Agreeing a standardised set of questions to collect data puts us in the best position to create comparable, aggregated and anonymised datasets between journals and publishers … our joint commitment gives us a foundation to bring together publishers globally to find answers to questions that have been overlooked for decades.’