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The problems of exclusion and biases in science have occupied the debates on scientific publishing for some time now. However, the most recent approaches to open science agree that diversity should be at the forefront of policies for producing, disseminating, and using scientific knowledge. The predominance of the Global North countries in the publication of articles has resulted in the homogenization of practices for the circulation of scientific knowledge, which dilutes (and hierarchizes) the complex variety of ways of producing and communicating knowledge. For example, adopting the English language as the lingua franca in scholarly communication has minimized and discouraged publication in various countries’ local languages, especially in the Global South.
The Directory of Open Access Journals, better known as DOAJ, has launched several international collaborative initiatives with regional organizations, libraries, universities, and numerous journal editorial teams worldwide to address these issues. Relatedly, and in the framework of the DOAJ’s 20 years of operations, we share in this article the following recommendations for fostering diversity of voices in scholarly journals. These recommendations also integrate some conclusions derived from the most recent “Opening Up Diversity” summer school, an initiative to discuss how concepts of diversity relate to structural and epistemic injustice in research.
Increasing diversity in scholarly journals
1. Promote multilingualism in publishing
According to DOAJ data, in 2022, about 35% of the indexed journals published articles in two or more languages. In fact, the DOAJ records 80 languages of publication. These data show that despite having a lingua franca in science, this is not the only language in communication among peers and with society, especially in regions such as Latin America, where several languages have a wide presence in academic publishing. DOAJ recognizes that it is essential to maintain and support multilingual journals, as this allows local audiences, even beyond academia, to benefit from research outputs. Some specific recommendations include:
- To promote linguistic diversity, it is recommended that journals have their website in more than one language, ensuring that the information available is the same in all versions. For example, the instructions for authors must be homogeneous in all languages of publication. It is also recommended that articles’ titles, abstracts, and keywords are available in all of these languages and in open formats that different search engines can discover.
- Publishing in more than one language implies having multilingual editorial teams. Some journals are supported by language editors located in different countries; therefore, one recommendation is that multilingual journals develop and maintain regional and international collaborative networks.
- Scholarly journals should support content translation. To this end, a key strategy is to ensure that content is licensed to be transformed and created from the original material. The use of open licenses such as Creative Commons has become popular in journals. However, not all of these licenses allow the creation and dissemination of derivative works such as translations.
2. Promoting diversity in editorial boards
The composition of editorial teams is a complex issue, given the variety of existing journals and their diverse editorial workflows. Studies have shown that disparities in editorial boards (e.g., gender, ethnicity or geographic location) can deepen publication biases at different levels. For example, imbalances in the ethnicity of the editorial board members may affect the coverage of topics that affect minority populations or are considered “peripheral” or “of local interest” in mainstream publishing circuits. While DOAJ does not explicitly set standards for encouraging diversity on editorial boards, it does promote journals to minimize endogeneity. The following points should be taken into consideration:
- It is recommended that the proportion of published articles in which at least one of the authors is an editor, editorial board member, or reviewer should not exceed 25% of the content in the last two issues.
- Another recommendation is to actively recruit candidates from minority groups in academic communities (such as early career researchers) and offer mentoring to advance their editorial careers.
- Journals can also distribute decision-making power across a set of co-editors, thus encouraging various routes to diversity.
- The use of reductionist metrics such as gender distribution on editorial boards should be avoided as much as possible, as many journals in different disciplines are already doing. These measures risk falling into what Gustavo E. Fischman has called the “simplimetrification” of research, i.e., confusing the increase of accounting elements (e.g., more women in leadership positions) with the significant improvement of research participation processes.
3. Provide support resources for authors and reviewers
Global inequalities in Higher Education and research systems prevent communication from being an inclusive and effective international process. Poor training in scholarly research and writing impedes advancing careers focused on scholarly publishing. It is important to bear in mind that:
- It is crucial that journals provide resources to support scholarly writing through their website and/or social media. Some journals have sites dedicated to author training that address topics on academic integrity, article writing, copyright, reproducibility, research data management, among others.
- As previously mentioned, journals and schools have many similarities. If journals attend to their pedagogical function, they can contribute to getting authors (especially those with more challenges in their careers) to write solid and socially significant contributions.
- A pedagogical function based on scientific rigor, care ethics, and transparency should be encouraged. In this regard, journals may consider collaborating with initiatives promoting collaborative peer review, such as preprint review clubs.
More about DOAJ
This year, DOAJ celebrates 20 years of operations, during which the Directory has worked to provide quality assurance, support, and visibility to open-access journals from anywhere in the world. DOAJ offers all its services and metadata to be used free of charge and it has over 19,000 indexed journals selected by an international team of specialists in academic publishing, ambassadors, and volunteers working in libraries and universities worldwide. The heterogeneity of this team reflects one of DOAJ’s main purposes: to promote a diverse and inclusive scholarly publishing system.
We celebrate these two decades of open access and the reputation and trust that the international scholarly community has placed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, DOAJ.
By Ivonne Lujano Vilchis, DOAJ ambassador for Latin America.
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