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Analysis and news


What are we doing to try and improve the diversity of our reviewer pool? While the current reviewer data in isolation is worrying, we are seeing reviewing activity growing quite rapidly year on year in countries like China and India. But rather than simply relying on that underlying organic growth, we wanted to take a proactive approach to: Diversifying editorial boards: we know our editorial boards are not geographically reflective of our author bases on many of our journals, and they don’t reflect the gender balance either. We’re addressing this by broadening our networks and paying attention to recruiting from under-represented countries. To do that, we’re spending more time and money on improved data, and getting to know the research communities in those countries better. We’re also trying to recruit more women onto our editorial boards, although we recognise the real work needs to be done in encouraging more girls and women into STEM education and employment. IOP Publishing’s learned society status means that any surplus we make from our publishing activities goes into promoting physics for the benefit of all. Educating our editorial staff: all our editorial staff receive training on unconscious bias in peer review when they join the company, and refreshers are offered frequently. We also encourage editorial staff to be much bolder in their reviewer selection. Giving them data helps. For example, they now understand that


www.researchinformation.info | @researchinfo


reviewers from China and India are more likely to accept an invitation to review, and will also do it faster. Some journals are considering a quota approach to address the disparity in reviewer invitations and reviewer fatigue. We also offer diversity webinars for our editorial board members. We held the first in March 2020 and more than 100 board members joined, with great levels of engagement. In the future, we will run more of these, and offer them to our reviewers too. Building our reviewer pool through


co-review: we are introducing a formal method of co-review, initially on three journals, to help early career researchers build their reviewing history and reputation. We know reviews are often delegated to junior researchers (McDowell et al., 2019). But because this is done informally, the established reviewer’s records grow, and the junior researcher goes unrecognised. By formally acknowledging when co-review occurs we give credit where it’s due, which should increase the numbers of review invitations early career researchers receive.


What are we doing to improve equity of opportunity? All these steps, if successful, will help improve consistency and fairness in assessment. But we can, and will, do more. We’ve started offering transparent


peer review on three of our journals, so readers can see the standards of peer review applied and decide for themselves if we’ve made the right decisions. We’ve


“Finally, we’re being open and honest about the challenges”


been offering a double-blind option on a handful of our journals for a few years, and despite the modest take-up of ~20 per cent of authors, we know (through our research and the wider literature) double-blind is perceived as an effective way to reduce potential bias. We’re going to change how we ask


reviewers to rate and score manuscripts (with better instructions), making it easier for them and our editorial teams to be objective. We’ve already improved our reviewer guidance, so reviewers are informed about implicit bias and what they can do to counter it. We’ve produced a code of conduct for board members and have clear guidance on our website about our stance against discrimination. We expect authors, reviewers, board members and staff to treat everyone with respect, and to judge work on its merits alone. Finally, we’re being open and honest about the challenges. We know we’re not alone in these issues, and we hope by acknowledging the problem and openly discussing possible solutions, the whole scientific community can benefit.


Kim Eggleton is research integrity manager at IOP Publishing


June/July 2020 Research Information 27


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