Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Rebecca Kirk, Allison Leung and Shaina Lange. They serve as the co-Chairs of the Society for Scholarly Publishing ( SSP) Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) committee.

One of the core values of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) is inclusivity, which sits alongside a commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) in the scholarly publishing industry. The declaration and integration of these values into the activities of such a large scholarly publishing society is testament to the long-lived impact of the six original Task Force members, who first championed DEIA at SSP back in 2016 (for more on this, please read this great summary). 

In the seven years since the task force assembled, it has developed into a full standing committee, with clear objectives, working collaboratively with task forces on accessibility and global perspectives. In addition, many of those involved on the committee have gone on to hold leadership and board positions within SSP — furthering the impact of the work. As noted by a current member of the committee, they are proud of “the breadth of the committee’s impact within SSP and the industry overall”.

diferent colored threads coming together to form the shape of a lightbulb

To help realize SSP’s goal of “Providing equitable opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds to feel welcome to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the scholarly publishing community”, a liaison program was started in 2021 to embed DEIA committee members into all SSP committees. As of 2022, we have liaisons in each one of eleven committees and one task force, who have provided feedback and consultation on a number of different initiatives from the annual meeting, to career development, finance, and awards and nominations to make them more inclusive and accessible. DEIA committee liaison support on all SSP initiatives has been a very rewarding program that helps connect DEIA committee members to the wider activity of SSP to embed DEIA and SSP’s core values in all endeavors.  This support will prove to be even more impactful going forward as the DEIA Committee has now created  a guide to support the liaisons further in their roles. 

With nearly 30 volunteers spanning functions and organization types, the DEIA committee brings engaged and passionate individuals together to share their unique experiences, ideas, and expertise in meaningful and tangible ways. Through thought leadership pieces (on disability disclosure and diversity tax, for example), webinars (in partnership with C4DISC), resource development, and outreach, current committee members note how proud they are that we “continue to move the needle forward” and “prompt difficult conversations within our organizations” on DEIA-related topics. Here’s what else committee members had to say about our work and achievements over the last few years:

  • “Engaged community with a vast list of actionable goals at any point & several tangible outcomes to celebrate in the last 3 years.”
  • “We have kept momentum going around DEI efforts. We have also built a community (and friendships) among people who are committed to these efforts.”
  • “I am happy with how the group has evolved over time and the recent focus on accessibility.”
  • “Creation of ongoing programming for C4DISC; I’ve always appreciated the fact that their programming is not behind a paywall therefore available to anyone and everyone.” 
  • “+1 to not having C4DISC webinars behind a paywall! We have been able to reach a large audience with these!”
  • “The toolkits are fantastic and were one reason I decided to join the committee.”
  • “…also acting as a resource for the broader SSP community around DEIA and ensuring DEIA is considered within SSP and the Annual Meeting.”

Taken together, the experiences of the DEIA committee at SSP can inform DEIA efforts throughout our industry. Key lessons learned have been:

  • Grassroots efforts are valuable catalytic drivers for change, when there are passionate advocates in the organization who are given the resources and recognition to thrive;
  • DEIA should be integrated into the strategic goals of an organization to ensure there is accountability;
  • Embedding advocates for DEIA into decision-making groups, such as the SSP committees and task forces, ensures that these considerations are taken into account as strategy and projects are developed and executed;
  • Developing the pipeline of DEIA leaders and uplifting the voices of historically under-represented groups can result in a stronger leadership team overall long term.

We hope that the lessons we have taken from our experiences at SSP can be part of a call to action for all of us in scholarly publishing. Make DEIA a core value, include it in your objectives and KPIs, and integrate it into everything!

Rebecca Kirk

Rebecca Kirk is Publisher, Portfolio Development at PLOS, where she has a focus on developing journals that embed equitable practices to address global societal challenges. She is also a Co-Chair of the SSP DEIA Committee and a HESI SDG Publishers Compact Fellow.

Allison Leung

Allison Leung is the Assistant Director, Researcher Products & Engagement at the American Chemical Society. She oversees a team who manage products that support authors, reviewers, and editors through the publication process and beyond.

Shaina Lange

Shaina Lange is Senior Manager, Publishing Integrity Office at the American Chemical Society. She oversees the strategy, policies, and activities to support publishing integrity across the ACS journals portfolio, with a focus on embedding ACS' core value of diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect (DEIR) in the peer review and publishing processes.