eLife Latest: July 2023 update on our actions to promote equity, diversity and inclusion

This sixth report highlights our accomplishments from the first half of 2023 and outlines our planned actions for the remainder of the year.

UPDATE: Please note that the report on the following outlined actions has been rescheduled to April 2024. The additional time is to accommodate disruptions and to bring the reporting schedule in line with other activities. The blog below has been updated accordingly. Subsequent six-monthly updates will resume post-April, with the next report scheduled for October 2024.

This year has marked a significant milestone for eLife as we transitioned to our new publishing model back in January. Supported by our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategic Framework introduced in 2022, we have also continued to push forward with actions to make research and publishing more equitable, diverse and inclusive. Now, in this sixth instalment of our twice-yearly updates, we take stock of our recent efforts towards the aspirations set out in our last report and share our plans for the remainder of 2023. As before, our efforts will focus on four key areas:

  • Supporting inclusive and empowered communities
  • Addressing bias in peer review
  • Encouraging inclusive and equitable research
  • Underpinning action with equitable infrastructure

Questions and comments on this update are welcome. Please feel free to share via a comment on this blog post or via email to edi@elifesciences.org. Anonymous feedback may be shared via this form.

Report prepared by:
Stuart King, Research Culture Manager

Supporting inclusive and empowered communities

Over the past six months, we have worked to empower our communities to both achieve their own ambitions and guide eLife as an organisation. All three objectives from our last report have been completed. We will soon announce the first members of our Global South Committee, whose expertise and experiences will shape policies and practices at eLife. We have featured stories from a wider range of counties in our Sparks of Change series, with others planned for the future too. We have also reviewed and updated resources for our hiring managers to increase awareness of equity, diversity, and inclusion in recruitment.

In parallel to the above, we launched the 2023 Ben Barres Spotlight Awards to support researchers from underrepresented backgrounds; elected our soon-to-be-announced early-career advisors in Northern America, Southeast Asia and Western Asia; and consulted with neurodivergent people in the research community ahead of our upcoming series of articles related to neurodiversity in academia.

Last month, we celebrated Pride Month through a series of guest speakers and staff events, organised to foster a sense of inclusivity and raise our collective awareness of issues faced by LGBTQ+ people in eLife’s communities. Sciety published a guest blog post calling for the protection of dedicated safe spaces for queer people in the face of increasing hostility on various fronts.

Next steps: By March 2024, we will take the following steps:

  • Run the fifth year of the Ben Barres Spotlight Awards with expanded eligibility criteria to specifically support neurodivergent researchers
  • Announce the inaugural Global South Committee and outline plans for further recruiting additional members
  • Launch the 2024–2025 cohort of the eLife Community Ambassadors program to convene a diverse community of researchers passionate about research culture change
  • Organise further staff events to continue raising collective awareness of equity, diversity, and inclusion and research culture issues
  • Feature neurodivergent scientists in our Sparks of Change collection, sharing their stories of defining moments while navigating the academic world

Addressing bias in peer review

Expanding the representation of our author communities within our editorial board forms a key part of our approach to supporting fairer decisions for our authors. Following the success of our first ever open call for Reviewing Editors in 2022 which more than tripled our representation in Latin America, this year we held a second open call – running from May 10 until July 12 – which focused on recruiting new eLife editors based in Africa. To ensure effective management of other ongoing changes related to our new model, including those outlined below, the previous plan to provide our Senior Editors with personalised feedback on their editorial activities and decisions has now been rescheduled to 2024.

Next steps: Within the next eight months we will:

  • Announce and onboard the new editors recruited via the open call in Africa
  • Provide an update on the demographic make-up of our editorial community
  • Report on demographic differences in use and outcome of our new publishing model

Encouraging inclusive and equitable research

At eLife, we remain dedicated to harnessing the influence of peer review in dismantling systemic barriers of exclusion and bias within the realm of research. This involves ensuring fair recognition for all individuals who make valuable contributions to published research and addressing issues in how research is conducted and reported. In the past six months we have fully achieved the first of the related objectives set out in January, with the second coming into effect soon. Specifically, we implemented an "anti-helicopter research" policy to promote fair and ethical practices in research collaborations, and will shortly be adopting the SAGER Guidelines into our polices too, to give standardised and gender-inclusive recommendations for reporting sex and gender information within research publications.

Next step: In time for our next report, we will:

  • Identify at least one new policy to implement at eLife in 2024 to further encourage inclusive and equitable research practices

Underpinning action with accessible and equitable infrastructure

eLife has also achieved both of our infrastructure-related objectives set out in January. This included expanding login options on Sciety, enabling researchers to save preprints and follow curation activity without the requirement of a Twitter account. Moreover, demographic data collection processes within our new model's workflows were updated to ensure continuity in diversity monitoring.

Next steps: To further our ambition in this area, we will:

  • Conduct user testing for Reviewed Preprint designs with a group that is representative of our communities in terms of geography, gender and career stage


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