Diversity Leadership Committee Column

Posted on

January 2024

For many, this will be a year of publishing those exciting manuscripts you have been working on with your group or collaborators both at UCLA and beyond. Engaging in authorship is both a core aspiration and social responsibility in an academic career. However, we often overlook or are unaware of publishing practices that lend themselves to perpetuating racial, gender, and socioeconomic disparities in the chemical sciences. Therefore, we are reviewing core areas that contribute to inclusivity in publishing practices:

Authorship diversity: Publication authorship holds strong currency for academic success. We note that the diversity of individuals in a research group is one of the largest contributors to diversity in authorship. Therefore, it is crucial to engage in outreach, retention, and recruitment efforts that contribute to academic writing readiness within research groups. According to a paper in ACS Chemical Biology, data on authorship of women in top chemical sciences journals from 2005-2022 indicate that the highest fraction of first authorship by women was about 40% (in Cell Chemical Biology), whereas the highest amount of corresponding authorship by women is about 20% (in ACS Chemical Biology).

Citation bias & diversity: Citations are meant to properly credit those that have previously done notable work related to our own. However, people that come from underrepresented backgrounds are less likely to be credited for notable contributions to the field (i.e. Rosalind Franklin!). We suggest doing a comprehensive literature review before starting to write so that you can reference all of the relevant contributors to the field, rather than simply re-referencing the few most famous people again and again. Consider keeping track of the diversity of corresponding and first authors in your citations. Recently, journals have been publishing Citation Diversity Statements, which address the diversity and equitability of their references in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, or other factors to demonstrate commitment to diversity in references.

Editorial board & peer reviewer diversity: Faculty and more senior researchers are often invited to engage in peer review, or serve on editorial boards of journals. With this in mind, we encourage authors to review the composition of journal editorial boards before paper submission, and for senior authors to potentially speak up if editorial boards are not representative of the global chemistry community. For peer reviewers, we encourage faculty, students, and postdoctoral fellows to make use of training sources that teach about common peer review bias and then to volunteer your services as a peer reviewer.

We hope that you have a wonderful year of publishing, and we strongly encourage our chemistry and biochemistry community members to keep editorial and authorship biases in mind.

Remember, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate!

AJ Addae, Professor Sarah Tolbert, and Professor Abby Doyle

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