BMJ and our journals have the ability to stand up for equality, diversity, and inclusion in research, clinical practice, and scholarly communication—and the responsibility to do so
For over 200 years, academic journals have been the gatekeepers of scientific research publication, the means by which researchers receive recognition for their work and the conduit for research to inform clinical practice. The BMJ has a 170-year history that stretches back to a time where US and European men primarily dominated research and clinical practice, and there was little room for diversity.
While we may tell ourselves that “times have changed” and the world is now much more equitable, this is not what the evidence tells us. The vast majority of editors of the top-cited medical journals are straight, white, men based in Europe and the US and research conducted by women in top-cited medical journals receive fewer citations. The BMJ’s “racism in medicine” special issue highlighted the perpetuating bias in every aspect of medicine, from discrimination faced by junior and trainee doctors, to obvious racial disparities in patient outcomes.
There is also obviously still injustice in the research to publication cycle. Journals cannot simply state that they can only publish what they receive and are therefore immune to bias and prejudice. Journals consist of curations of scholarly content and published articles are passed through editorial and peer review processes: people are involved in these processes and everyone carries their own inherent bias. BMJ now recognises the role that journals and editors play in perpetuating the cycle of injustice in research and scholarly communication and we have outlined how we are actively working to tackle racism and injustice and support equality, diversity, and inclusion in all of our BMJ journals.
BMJ aims to support clinicians and researchers from all over the world to have good quality work published, regardless of their sex/gender, race/ethnicity, first language, sexual orientation, religion/beliefs, disability status, age/status or nationality/citizenship. We are trying to help dismantle the barriers that have previously prevented underrepresented groups from seeing their work published and therefore help them to advance their careers.
Our existing commitments to Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)
1. No manels: our staff will not participate in male-only panels and BMJ encourages our editors not to attend events with male-only panels.
2. Supporting authors from the Global South
— To encourage authors from the Global South to publish in our open access journals, we provide waivers/discounts upon request and we provide free access or low-cost access to subscriptions to our journals for readers from the Global South
— We provide BMJ author services to help improve the quality and readability of articles.We acknowledge the hegemony of the English language in science and we will develop further what we can do to promote equality.
— We also encourage the appropriate attribution of authors from the Global South in the author byline of papers
3. Author name change policy permitting authors to change their name post publication upon request for authors whose name may have changed as a result of marriage, divorce, change in gender identity or any other personal reasons.
4. Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing
BMJ has joined this cross-publisher initiative to work together to make academic and scholarly publishing more diverse and inclusive.
5. A code of conduct for all editors-in-chief and affiliated societies on how we like to work at BMJ in order to create a diverse and inclusive environment.
6. Championing anti-racism at BMJ through our staff-led EDI networks and ensuring journal editors consider the impact of race and racism on health in clinical research.
7. BMJ company has recruited our first EDI Manager to help move EDI initiatives forward and ensure we are a diverse and inclusive organisation.
8. Continuously improving our style guides specifically when it comes to the latest and most inclusive terminology when referring to sex/gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability status or nationality/citizenship.
Our future commitments to EDI
1. Diversify our editorial boards
BMJ aims to have 50% gender equality on our editorial teams and editorial boards by the end of 2022. We also commit to having a greater representation of people from the Global South on our boards.
2. Encourage diversity in authors and reviewers
BMJ encourages authors and reviewers from a diverse range of backgrounds and tries to ensure we reduce the possibility of unconscious bias during the peer review process as much as possible. We encourage our Editors to consider EDI when they are commissioning content and selecting reviewers.
3. Offensive content
Putting measures in place to ensure that we screen out offensive content and have procedures in place to deal with complaints about offensive published articles as well as historic offensive content.
4. Reporting guideline with a focus on diversity
We will develop a reporting guideline to help authors reflect on key aspects of human diversity when writing their research and non-research articles.
There is still a lot more we need to do to bring about real, tangible change in the research and publication process. We need to make it fairer, more just, and equitable to enable all researchers and clinicians to publish their work no matter their background, to improve clinical practice and patient care, and ultimately to make a healthier world for everyone.
If you have ideas on how BMJ journals can make the research and publication process more equal, diverse and inclusive, or if you would like to find out more, please reach out to us.
Mark Richards, product owner, article transfer service at BMJ
Juan Franco, editor-in-chief of BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine
Theo Bloom, executive editor of The BMJ
on behalf of the EDI Policy for BMJ Journals Group.
Competing interests: none declared.