Hopefully you have had the opportunity to read our special Peer Review Week 2018 feature from yesterday. If not, here are our Editors speaking about their experience of diversity and inclusion in peer review.
Here is the second half of their responses:
Do you feel that failures in diversity and inclusion in peer review have an impact on research? In what way?
Rosie Hails: Inevitably it must do, as the questions asked are influenced by the perspective of the reader/reviewer. I could not say however whether this impact is positive or negative (probably both).
Richard Ladle: Personally, I think the impacts are marginal in relation to structural and institutional biases that contribute to the formation of research networks with non-representative identities.
Patricia Balvanera: Review processes are strong filters that favour manuscripts that are more in line with what the editor or the reviewer expects from the manuscript. Differences in ways to do science and to communicate about it between authors and reviewers often leads to paper rejection.
Becca Lovell: I think (though don’t have any first hand evidence) that these issues must have an effect in all sorts of ways. From my own field of health research the lack of diversity in perspectives at editorial and peer review stages is argued to have held back methodological and topical development. However, I think the real impact is upstream of publishing and relates to processes such as peer review of funding proposals. Here I think there are significant issues with the lack of diversity and inclusion on the decisions that are made.
Carla Morsello: Yes, indeed these failures must have an effect. For instance, I believe this may impact even the content of research or what is considered cutting-edge research. In Conservation, for instance, there are some research “fashions” which last for a decade or less, for instance, which seem to me to be driven, at least partially, by large funding bodies (e.g. European Union, NSF). Because most editors are from specific countries (mostly US and UK), it is very likely that they find that topics following these “trends” to be more novel and more novel than topics which may important to other countries. Moreover, in my opinion, real novel topics or approaches may be less likely to be considered important if they do not follow these regional fashions. Again, this is only my perception, probably a biased one!
Is the situation changing? Have you seen any initiatives to enhance diversity and be more inclusive?
Becca Lovell: I hope it is but I think we are taking very small steps and things will most likely only change with new generations coming into science (e.g. pretty slowly). I am aware of initiatives within the university I work at and beyond (e.g. from some of the big academic and scientific societies) which aim to enable younger, and especially women and those coming from developing countries, to develop peer review skills and to get a foot in the door of the system. I am also aware that approaches such as double-blinding the peer review process are promoted as tackling inclusivity, however I am a bit sceptical as to whether this is very helpful as I work in a fairly small field and, as a reviewer, can usually have a good stab at working out who the research has been produced by. I suppose this is all a start but I think it is targeting the wrong end of the issue, more work needs to be done with those who have the power to make decisions about funding, peer review, recruitment, editorial board membership, and so on. I think change is most likely to come about if we think at an (international) systems level. We as individuals have a role in advocating for that but some of the basic structures of science probably need to change to facilitate more inclusivity.
Carla Morsello: I heartedly believe that British Ecological Society is on the right track and could be presented as a good example. I was extremely happy and surprised when I was invited to be an Associate Editor, particularly considering that I did not know any of the Editors personally. To me, it was very unlikely that I could ever be invited to such a position since I am Brazilian, work in Brazil and, because of “women’s duties” (e.g. taking care of elders or children), was unable to participate in international conferences in the last few years. I, therefore, believe this decision was based mainly on guaranteeing diversity in peer review and I am very happy about that.
Richard Ladle: I’ve been involved (as an editor) in several discussions about this over the last couple of years (so the awareness is there). The simplistic solution is double-blind, but there is very little evidence that this makes much of a difference.
Patricia Balvanera: I do not know of any such initiative. As a review editor of several journals, I personally try to include reviewers from different disciplines and from different contexts as teams that could have very contrasting views on a same manuscript.
Rosie Hails: There are several initiatives to bring potential biases to the communities attention. Change is happening although slowly.
That concludes our Q+A with the Editors for this week. I would like to extend a massive thank you to them for their considered and conscientious responses.
I hope everyone enjoyed the post, and please do share it on your social media networks.
As a teaser, we will be posting next week on something definitely peer review related – a novel approach that People and Nature has been using to counter some of the problems that might arise in the review process of a truly interdisciplinary paper.