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Letter from the COPE Chair: December 2021

As we rapidly approach the end of 2021 and prepare to turn the corner to 2022, COPE is releasing a new discussion document on Diversity and inclusivity, primarily written by our past-Chair, Deborah Poff. This is the culmination of a number of COPE activities around diversity, equity and inclusivity (DEI) this year, addressing the wide range of challenges and changes required to make scholarly publishing more diverse and inclusive. We have made a commitment to move forward on these important issues, and during 2021 we took a number of important steps.

COPE’s DEI working group will become a formal operational part of COPE when we launch the ‘Inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA) subcommittee’ in 2022. In July 2020, COPE signed up to the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC). We look forward to participating in the ongoing conversations on diversity and inclusion in the industry, and finding ways to address issues of exclusion and inequity.

Author name changes became a focal point over the past couple of years. This issue highlights the balance between complete transparency when modifying the published record and the right to privacy and avoidance of harm to the author. To look more closely at these issues, COPE created a diverse working group of COPE Trustees and Council Members, publishers, editors, and authors to develop guidance. It is appropriate that authors want to retain credit for their past work without regard to changes in identity that may come from marriage or divorce, religious conversion, safety from abuse or harassment, or to escape social and cultural stigma.  

A guest article highlighting the unique challenges and risks faced by trans-authors was published in January. This article articulates the vulnerability of this community and offers five guiding principles and best practices as possible solutions, which also brings benefits to a broader population who may need to change their names for different reasons. In August, COPE Trustee, Caroline Porter, shared her thoughts on why we should diversify our editorial boards and how to go about it.

COPE hosted several online events focused on DEI in 2021. In May, COPE hosted a webinar on diversity, equity, and inclusion. This webinar deals with the impact of discriminatory practices in our industry and outlines best practices around identity and name changes. It also looked at the issue of historical offensive content. As part of COPE’s seminar last month, we had a seminar session on driving diversity, equity, and inclusion to shape the future of publication ethics, including presentations on collecting data, diversifying editorial boards, and managing allegations of discriminatory behaviour. Both recordings are now publicly available, so feel free to follow the links and listen in. In September, the COPE Forum discussion on Bias in peer review was informed by a survey to understand more about how the community views the topic.

Of course, COPE is not the only organisation looking more deeply at the broadening diversity.  In this issue you will find a number of news items related to DEI from JAMA, which has updated their guidance on the reporting of race and ethnicity, Scholarly Kitchen on maximising participation from diverse contributors, APA who have expanded demographic data collection, Elsevier making the case for more diversity in peer review, and others.

I hope you find this issue of COPE Digest interesting and informative, and that you go into 2022 with a renewed drive to continue to improve diversity and inclusivity in scholarly publications. 

Dan Kulp, COPE Chair