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Diversifying editorial boards

Alongside publication of our new guidance on editorial board participation, we wanted to share some thoughts on diversifying editorial boards. At COPE, we are mindful of the importance of improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in scholarly publishing and we have begun working on resources on the topic, including a forthcoming discussion document. 

In May, we held a webinar on diversity, equity and inclusion in research and publishing, following which we surveyed COPE members to discover what your priorities are in relation to DEI and publication ethics. The results of that survey will inform our upcoming interactive DEI workshop, which will feature during the COPE seminar in September. Your feedback indicated a high level of interest in diversifying editorial boards, and as such we wanted to share some initial thoughts here. 

Why diversify your editorial board?

Research shows that journals with diverse editorial boards are more likely to publish more diverse research articles – in terms of diversity of topics and diversity of authors. This in turn increases the breadth and depth of your content and supports the equitable development of knowledge in your field.

Diversity also fosters innovation and creativity through a greater variety of problem-solving approaches, perspectives and ideas. It increases understanding and reduces conflicts between groups, improving collaboration and loyalty.

How to diversify your editorial board

A diverse board is one where different backgrounds, experiences and cultures are represented. This includes (but is not limited to) gender, ethnic, career stage and geographical diversity. Here are some suggestions that can help you in creating a more diverse editorial board:

  • Be proactive – don’t rely on your existing networks, be prepared to reach out broadly and seek out candidates from under-represented groups, for example by:
    • Approaching early career researchers and others who have contributed to the journal as reviewers or authors. Ask existing board members to mentor those with less experience.
    • Asking existing board members for recommendations (be clear that you are particularly interested in nominations from countries or groups not currently well-represented on the board).
    • Approaching people who you have seen presenting at conferences or workshops, or whose work you have read.
  • Advertise vacancies for editorial positions, or post open calls for expression of interest to join your board. Use social media to spread the word and encourage colleagues to do the same. Invite application letters and assess those fairly, with clear and consistent selection criteria. Involve others in the decision-making, in order to mitigate any unconscious biases.
  • Put diversity targets in place in order to hold yourself and your editorial board to account over time. Think about the gender and ethnic mix within your particular field – your board should at a minimum reflect this. Progress can be iterative and develop as board members come and go. 
  • Appoint one or more board members to act as diversity champions, who can actively support your aims.
  • Put fixed terms in place for editorial board members, enabling you to regularly review and refresh your board.
  • Think broadly about the areas of expertise you’d like to see represented on the board, and proactively seek out individuals with those areas of expertise.
  • We all have unconscious biases; challenge yourself and check your assumptions – for example about institutional location, professional status and language skills.

Ultimately a diverse board will help you to create inclusive peer review processes and publish content by a wide range of authors from different backgrounds and cultures. The above is not an exhaustive list and we’d love to hear from you about your experiences!

COPE Trustee, Caroline Porter

Related resource

Editorial board participation guidelines