This is the last in our series of four posts on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)-focused session from the 43rd Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) Annual Meeting. Each includes a session summary from one of the panelists, as well as reflections and responses from members of our community. Reflections that cover more than one session have been broken up and included with the relevant post.  Each of the four posts will cover the sessions sequentially:

  1. Fighting Racial Inequity in the Publishing Industry, with a summary by Cason Lynley (who introduced Dr. Williams) and reflections by Miranda Walker, Steven D. Smith, George Neame, and Dana Compton
  2. The Glass Ceiling You Don’t Know About Yet, with a summary by Simon Holt and reflections by Hannah Vinchur, Georgie Field, Nicola Poser, Damita Snow, and George Neame
  3. Accelerating DEI: Have the Data? Use the Data!, with a summary by Susan Spilka that includes results from the Vital Signs survey and poll conducted before and at the conference by TBI Communications, as well as reflections by Nicola Poser and Michelle Urberg
  4. Retrogressing Research and Limiting Diversity, with a summary by Steph Pollock, and reflections by Sneha K. Rhode, Susan J. Harris, Timothy McAdoo, and Jiayn Wang

We hope you’ve found our posts interesting and informative, and we encourage you to keep the conversation going on these important topics, by adding your thoughts to the comment thread.

hands of different people holding up lightbulbs

Retrogressing Research and Limiting Diversity

Session summary

Steph Pollock, Associate Publisher, Community Initiatives, American Psychological Association

The session “Retrogressing Research and Limiting Diversity: the Impact of the Pandemic on Scholarly Publishing’s Inequities” featured four esteemed panelists: Lois Jones (Peer Review Director for the American Psychological Association [APA]); Dr. Willie E. May (Vice President for Research & Economic Development at Morgan State University); Dr. Adriana Romero Olivares (Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at New Mexico State University); and Dr. Cassidy Sugimoto (Professor of Informatics at the Luddy School of Informatics, Indiana University).

The session was co-moderated by Dr. Chhavi Chauhan (Director of Scientific Outreach, American Society for Investigative Pathology) and Steph Pollock (Associate Publisher, Community Initiatives, APA).

The session began with a presentation from Dr. May, who provided an overview of how research output at Morgan State University (MSU) has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. May found that both 2020 and 2021 saw increases in outputs from MSU faculty to peer-reviewed journals, book chapters, and sponsored research grants compared to 2019 and earlier years. Despite these promising gains, he also found that, although 2020 saw more peer- reviewed publications from women faculty than from men, 2021 saw an increase in output from men alongside a slight decrease from women, suggesting that traditional gender roles for home and family care may continue to affect women’s publication output during the pandemic.

Lois Jones then presented on the impact of COVID-19 on author and reviewer behaviors by gender among APA-published journals. Using submission data from Editorial Manager, Ms. Jones and her colleagues found that there was no significant difference between 2019 and 2020 in the number of articles submitted by women, compared to men, and that women were not less likely to accept invitations to review articles compared to earlier years. Meanwhile, men were found to be more likely to appear as last authors or as sole author for single-author publications, while women were more likely to be the first author or appear in a role other than first or last author.

Ms. Jones noted that, despite these findings, the anecdotal evidence from women about how the pandemic has affected their ability to conduct research suggests that these gender gaps still exist. She noted that it’s possible that the long tail of psychology research may mean that there are existing gaps in research output that we have not yet been able to measure.

Cassidy Sugimoto presented recent findings from her research demonstrating the extent of gender disparities across the world. Her analysis of research contributor roles (using the Contributor Roles Taxonomy, or CRediT) by gender demonstrates that women are overrepresented in the labor of research but remain underrepresented in lead authorship roles. Likewise, in another study, Dr. Sugimoto and colleagues found that unequal burdens in parenting roles and responsibilities on women continue to exist – those who are in more engaged parenting roles showed decreased productivity in research.

Finally, Adriana Romero Olivares shared insight into her lived experiences as a researcher, addressing the challenges of starting a lab and conducting research in the pandemic. She acknowledged that the barriers to conducting research during the pandemic could have disparate effects on her research output and tenure track. Dr. Romero Olivares noted that factors including cuts to science funding budgets, backorders and shipping delays on lab materials, and declining administrative university positions mean that researchers working in a university setting have increasing responsibilities alongside a declining capacity to conduct their research. She noted that more systemic solutions are necessary to effectively address these problems.

The session concluded with a roundtable discussion among the panelists and moderators about the responsibilities of universities and publishers to support researchers and mitigate these existing disparities made more severe by the pandemic. The panelists agreed that these disparities and pressures on researchers will continue, and that future data and analysis is needed to understand the long-term effects of the pandemic on researchers.

Community Reflections

Sneha K. Rhode, Lead Journal Quality Auditor, Cabells International

I’ve been a full-time employee at Cabells International since August 2018. In my view, Cabells is well beyond its industry peers in valuing flexible working. All our systems were therefore already geared towards remote working when the pandemic struck. We were surprised at all the fuss about remote working as we’d been working remotely well before the pandemic.

Dr. Willie May stated that the productivity of women staff at Morgan State University decreased, and Dr. Cassidy Sugimoto commented on the magnification of inequities during the pandemic. This session was particularly enlightening for me as it made me realize how lucky I’ve been to be able to balance a full-time job while also taking care of my (then — at the start of the pandemic) two-year-old daughter.

Unfortunately, women handle the majority of childcare and household responsibilities even today. This unequal gap was further widened when most schools and nurseries were either shut or functioning remotely during the pandemic. A rigid model that expects women to work remotely while also catering to childcare needs (at the exact same time) could only result in decreased productivity. The COVID-19 pandemic has therefore made flexibility from an employer a highly sought-after employee perk. I am 100% committed to my job, and it really helps that my employer values my work without insisting that it is delivered within a set 9-to-5 schedule. I can work flexibly throughout the day while managing the personal commitments of being a mummy. It is high time that employers and managers more broadly recognize the benefits of flexible working; for me, it has led to a considerable increase in both productivity (that even resulted in a promotion!) and job satisfaction.

Susan J. Harris, PhD, Managing Editor, American Psychologist, American Psychological Association

I valued that this session gave an authentic picture of the pandemic’s impact on the research community at different levels — from a global perspective on research productivity worldwide to the personal experience of a research professor embarking on her career. The pressures experienced by those with unequal access to resources was eye-opening and suggests the need for modification of historical institutional systems, such as alternatives to the tenure-track system.

The session challenged my assumptions with some counterintuitive findings. Data presented by Lois Jones showed that submissions to journals at my own organization (APA) were comparable for women and men, at least during the initial pandemic period. Yet globally, output remains uneven, particularly for more rewarded author roles, as Dr. Cassidy Sugimoto demonstrated. Dr. Willie May reported an increase in research productivity overall, though tempered for women at Morgan State University, as the faculty’s high teaching demands were paused, allowing pursuit of valued research goals. The funding disparities for HBCUs stood out as barriers that we must do more to address. At APA, our EDI framework prioritizes building inclusivity for authors, reviewers, and editors to support research careers of Black scholars and other people of color.

While it is easy to conjecture, empirical data allow us to develop a true understanding of the pandemic’s impact, as this session nicely illustrated. In this regard, American Psychologist recently published a series on COVID-19 implications for such issues as family well-being, adolescent mental health, ageism experienced by older adults, and how personality and policy influence protective behaviors. Without such studies, we would lack a full picture of how this global crisis affects people, in some cases differently, why that may be, and what interventions are helpful and for whom. By the same token, understanding our research communities enables us to better support them.

Timothy McAdoo, Content Development Manager, APA Style, American Psychological Association

This session was informative about how the pandemic may affect the careers of authors and researchers even “after COVID.” Of course, the decisions researchers are having to make now, and the changes in how they can conduct their research, will have long-term effects on what they write and submit for publication in the future. And, as Dr. May noted, although all researchers have been affected by the pauses and disruptions caused by COVID, some areas of study, like political and social sciences, may have been hit more than others.

I was encouraged by the human-centered approach from Lois Jones, Peer Review Manager, about the APA Journals manuscript submission processes. It is great to hear that peer-review coordinators take an empathetic approach to helping authors navigate the peer-review system, with consideration for the fact that authors submitting during the pandemic may be doing so while nearing burnout or while experiencing COVID-related family emergencies. She noted that coordinators are taking a flexible approach, “giving as much leeway as possible; understanding that everyone is human in this process.” I am hopeful that this will partially mitigate the effects, even if the precise impact may be difficult or impossible to measure.

And I was encouraged to hear Lois’s call for ideas on how to continue to accommodate authors, with the understanding that when the immediate crisis is over, the effects it had for the research and careers of authors will be ongoing. Because, as all the speakers noted, COVID has only highlighted and heightened awareness of inequities that already existed and will continue to exist.

Jiayun Wang, PhD, Post-Doc., Xiamen University

I was pleased to learn in this session that there are no significant differences in the number of female reviewers and authors, as compared with men from 2019 to 2020, according to Lois Jones’s research. While researchers and research institutions were able to keep up their research during the pandemic, Dr. Cassidy Sugimoto’s research showed significant differences like parenting/work balance between male and female researchers, especially through the pandemic period. Dr. May pointed to other inequities that still exist in some aspects of research, like funding for different universities. The good news is that people in the scholarly publishing industry have identified many gaps and are trying to close them. In the future, there will be more policies and measures to fix these gaps.

As a female early career researcher, I feel excited when I see the positive changes happening in the scholarly publishing community. But there are some inequities in gender, race, and so on. To alleviate the situation, recently my country (China) has launched several policies and documents to protect female researchers. For example, when female researchers take part in competitive appraisal and awards, factors such as parenting are taken into consideration. These policies make female researchers feel their unique needs are addressed, which is empowering — and hopefully is encouraging more women to choose research as their career.

After this session, I felt encouraged by the potential for individuals to create value in the industry where they work. The future is brighter for people in underrepresented groups to be their true selves in the scholarly publishing community. I will keep an eye on the inequities that happen around me and try to help those who need it. Also, I hope to contribute by doing some research on this topic to tell policy makers, industry, and society what is happening and what we could do to build a more diverse, equal, and inclusive society.

Steph Pollock

Steph Pollock (pronouns: she/her) is the Associate Publisher, Community Initiatives at the American Psychological Association (APA), where she drives strategy and publishing partner engagement for the APA Journals program and serves as the Journals program lead for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives. With more than ten years of experience in scholarly publishing and a master's degree in publishing from The George Washington University, Steph is committed to improving equity in both the field of psychology and in the scholarly publishing industry. She is a co-author on the C4DISC Antiracism Toolkit for Organizations, a member of the Association for Women in Psychology, and has served on SSP’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee since 2018.

Sneha K. Rhode

Sneha Rhode, PhD, is a Lead Journal Quality Auditor, at Cabells International. She is a trained scientist working as a publishing ethics specialist.

Susan J. Harris

Susan J. Harris is managing editor of American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association, where she combines her interests in psychology and publishing. She also serves on SSP’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee.

Timothy McAdoo

Timothy McAdoo is a content development manager on the APA Style team at the American Psychological Association. He helped shape the seventh edition of the Publication Manual, and he manages and contributes to the APA Style blog, newsletter, and social media.

Jiayun Wang

Jiayun Wang was recently awarded her doctorate degree in publishing science at Wuhan University in China. Her research focuses on scholarly publishing and open science culture. Jiayun hopes to act as a bridge between China and the western world and to drive strategies for the sustainable development of scholarly communication.