Posted by Richard Willett - Memes and headline comments by David Icke Posted on 6 September 2023

DEI in Academic Publishing Paves the Way for Differential Treatment by Race

Regular readers will be aware of my concerns about a DEI initiative in academic publishing that invites authors and reviewers to provide information on race and ethnicity.

As you will know, I’ve recently been in contact with Elsevier and Cambridge University Press to try to understand how this information will be used, and to express my concerns about being asked to provide it.

Here is part of Elsevier’s response to my initial letter:

The data will let us see where each journal is in terms of diversity for the editorial board, authors and reviewers. It can highlight where there may be gaps or discrepancies in diversity in terms of gender identity, race or ethnic origin. This will help to understand if a journal needs better representation on its editorial board or in who they choose as reviewers. For example, if the author base has a large percentage from one ethnic background, but there are no reviewers from that background, it is a sign that there may need to be a more diverse reviewer pool for the journal.

And here is the main text of a recent (and quite helpful) response from Cambridge University Press:

Once again, I wish to reassure you that this information is not used to inform editorial decision-making. One of our core editorial policies states that “Editorial decisions on individual manuscripts should be based on scholarly merit, and should not be affected by the origins of the manuscript, including the nationality, political beliefs, religion, or identity of the authors“. This is in keeping with the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing (see p2) guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics and other organisations, and we expect our journals to uphold this foundational principle.

Regarding your concerns about recruitment to editorial boards I cannot comment on the approach taken by individual journals, many of which are owned by independent legal entities from Cambridge and recruit their editorial boards without input from Cambridge. Journals may indeed wish to increase representation on their boards, but to do so on the basis of race (perceived or declared) would, I imagine, be subject to any applicable equality laws in the jurisdiction of the journal or publisher. Similarly, any use of personal data held by a publisher would be subject to Data Protection laws governing such data in the relevant jurisdiction. As legal matters, these are beyond the scope of the Publishing Ethics and Research Integrity team to advise on, so, if of concern to you, I suggest you solicit legal advice.

So, putting together the pieces…

It seems that publishers are collecting data on the race and ethnicity of authors and reviewers, and presenting this to journals. Individual journals can then decide whether and how to engage with the data. This includes the possibility for discriminatory practices, such as choosing reviewers and recruiting editorial board members with regard to perceived race and ethnicity.

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