Gender identity and race & ethnicity data in Scholarone
Capturing the diversity of our editors, authors and reviewers systematically will enable better decision making
Equity, diversity, and inclusion are at the heart of BMJ’s mission to create a healthier and more equitable world. To support this mission and to enable us to monitor our progress, on 1 October 2022, BMJ journals began asking all users of our manuscript submission sites (editors, authors, and reviewers) to self-report their gender, race, and ethnicity.
You can find out more in this editorial in The BMJ: doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o2542
Frequently asked questions
- Answering the questions
- Data security, privacy, and use
- The schemas and their development
- How were the schemas developed? Do other publishers use the schemas?
- Why are we asking about gender identity? Why don’t we also ask about sex?
- Why isn’t transgender an option in the gender identity schema?
- What do you mean by ethnic origins?
- What ethnicity should I choose if I was born and raised in a different region from my family, e.g., my grandparents’ origins?
- Should I consider the results of any DNA testing in my ethnic origins response?
- What do you mean by race?
- Why is the ethnic/racial group with which I identify not included?
- Will you be adding additional options to the questions?
- What about other diversity questions?
- Help, questions and advice
Why is BMJ asking these questions?
By inviting ScholarOne users to self-report their gender identity, ethnic origins and race (diversity data), BMJ facilitates an evidence-based approach to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in research. By analysing diversity data, BMJ aims to increase diversity and inclusion in BMJ’s journal editorial processes, remediate unfair bias and drive more significant equity in publishing and research.
How were these questions developed?
The Royal Society of Chemistry-led Joint Commitment collective brought together 53 publishers as part of its diversity data collection in a scholarly publishing initiative to develop global gender identity, race and ethnicity schemas, which were endorsed in April 2022. Development of the schemas was an iterative process that drew on input from the Joint Commitment group, external subject matter expert Professor of Sociology Ann Morning at New York University, Elsevier’s Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board, and feedback from a large-scale, global researcher survey Elsevier conducted. In June, Clarivate announced their planned implementation of the endorsed diversity questions into ScholarOne.
What is meant by ‘editorial processes’?
Editorial processes refer to who and what is involved in the journal publishing lifecycle from manuscript submission to final publication.
Answering the questions
When will I see the questions?
The first time you log into a journal on ScholarOne, you are asked to click a link and then be invited to self-report your diversity data after the questions have been added to that journal. When you click that link, you will be presented with each of the questions starting with gender identity, followed by ethnic origins, and then race.
Do I have to answer the questions?
Self-reporting any diversity data is entirely voluntary and optional. While you cannot skip the questions, if you don’t wish to answer, but we would prefer that you answer the questios and select the ‘I prefer not to disclose’ option for any or all the questions.
Can I change my responses?
You completely control your data and can change your response anytime. Simply visit the ‘Edit My Account’ page in ScholarOne. You can change any of your responses, including ‘I prefer not to disclose’, which overwrites previous answers.
Why am I being asked to answer the questions for each journal?
Each journal has its own ScholarOne site. BMJ understands that answering the questions for each journal you interact with can be frustrating. BMJ is investigating how different journal ScholarOne sites can ultimately connect to make self-reporting your diversity data less burdensome; regrettably, such capability is not yet available.
Data security, privacy, and use
How will you keep my data secure?
The privacy and security of your self-reported diversity data are a priority (BMJ privacy principles). BMJ uses appropriate technical and organisational measures, including encryption in transit and at rest, to safeguard your diversity data, which are collected through ScholarOne but stored in a separate database with access controls. Your self-reported diversity data cannot be seen, accessed, or used by anyone during the manuscript submission or peer review process.
Who will have access to my data?
Access to your self-reported diversity data is subject to business rules, carefully controlled, and limited to a small number of BMJ employees, specifically:
- The inclusion & diversity champions supporting the EDI initiative;
- The IT engineers supporting the database reporting infrastructure; and
Your self-reported diversity data cannot be seen, accessed, or used by anyone during the manuscript submission or peer review process.
How will you use my data?
We will use your self-reported diversity data to improve diversity and inclusion across journal editorial processes. BMJ aims to review the editorial process holistically, from submission to publication, including reviewer and Editorial Board selection. If there are opportunities to advance further inclusion and diversity, such as by enhancing outreach, we aim to take action to adopt them; similarly, if we discover biases in our editorial processes, we will work to remediate them. However, your diversity data will not be seen, accessed, or used by anyone during the manuscript submission or peer review process.
Will you sell my diversity data?
BMJ will never sell any personally identifiable diversity data to any third party. Only anonymised, aggregated data and analyses will ever be shared publicly, e.g., for use in BMJ’s future reports on gender in research.
The schemas and their development
How were the schemas developed? Do other publishers use the schemas?
The Royal Society of Chemistry-led Joint Commitment collective brought together 53 publishers as part of its diversity data collection in a scholarly publishing initiative to develop global diversity data schemas, which were endorsed in April 2022. Development of the schemas was an iterative process that drew on input from the Joint Commitment group, external subject matter expert Professor of Sociology Ann Morning at New York University, Elsevier’s Inclusion & Diversity Advisory Board, and feedback from a large-scale, global researcher survey (more in this Nature article).
Our ambition was to develop a set of questions and options that resonate with researchers we serve from around the globe to engender a willingness to self-report, not to devise a single, objective, or prescriptive “truth” about researchers’ gender identity or race and ethnicity.
Why are we asking about gender identity? Why don’t we also ask about sex?
We ask people about their gender identity, the gender with which a person most identifies currently (the term ‘gender’ alone can be non-specific, and it can also refer to gender expression or gender attribution). Gender identity is not sex-based or determined solely by sex assigned at birth. While sex can factor into gender identity, the two are not linked in duality (e.g., a person who is intersex may identify as a woman or man or non-binary/gender diverse, or a person whose sex assigned at birth is female can identify as a woman or man or non-binary/gender diverse). Gender identity aligns best with our efforts to increase gender diversity and inclusion; sex is not a specific dimension of diversity and inclusion that we prioritise.
Why isn’t transgender an option in the gender identity schema?
Our approach to collecting gender identity information is agnostic about whether an individual is cis- or transgender. For example, a user can select the ‘woman’ option if a cis-gender woman or a transgender woman; that way, the options are inclusive. Importantly, if we were to ask individuals to specify whether they are cis-gender or transgender, we would be asking people to disclose sex assigned at birth. E.g., if an individual identifies as a cis-gender woman, then the individual has necessarily disclosed sex assigned at birth as female. We understand that we won’t be able to capture the granularity of cis- and transgender for women and men. Still, we don’t believe that distinction is necessary for our current efforts to promote greater gender diversity and inclusion.
What do you mean by ethnic origins?
One construct for ethnicity in a global context is descent-based identity, the most relatable has to do with what individuals consider to be their ‘origins’ or ‘ancestry’. Our schema invites you to self-report your ethnicity regarding geographic ancestry, i.e., geographic-based ethnic origins. The options presented are regional, following the UN geoscheme; diasporic groups based on religion, language, or culture, are not offered as options. Given the fluidity of human migration, it isn’t unusual for individuals to have roots in multiple regions of the globe. Thus you can select multiple options that resonate with you from the list of options provided.
What ethnicity should I choose if I was born and raised in a different region from my family, e.g., my grandparents’ origins?
When we say ‘first’, we ask about your earliest known family or ancestral origins. Note that you can select all options. If your ancestors originated from Western Europe, but multiple generations of your family have been based in North America, you could indicate that and may choose to indicate North America.
Should I consider the results of any DNA testing in my ethnic origins response?
You are not expected to undertake DNA testing nor to use the results of such a test as your basis for answering. You are expected to base your responses on your understanding of your family or ancestral origins. You do not need to answer the same as any national census survey.
What do you mean by race?
Race is a social construct grounded in beliefs around physical and behavioural differences, sometimes tied to ancestry if physical appearance is associated with a particular geographic area. Race, as a socially salient dimension of identity, can be influential in terms of individuals’ career opportunities and outcomes, thus relevant for measures of discrimination and exclusion.
The response options invite self-reporting of your racial identity. As with the question of ethnic origin, you can select multiple options that resonate with you from the list. Selecting one’s racial identity as ‘white’ should not be misconstrued or indicative of white supremacy.
Why is the ethnic/racial group with which I identify not included?
The level of aggregation and number of options presented in each question is intended to parallel the scale of diversity and inclusion we as a publisher can practically accommodate, e.g., diversity on Editorial Boards. While the options offered are designed to be inclusive globally, the examples associated with ethnic origins and race options are intended to be demonstrative rather than exhaustive. Where we felt examples were necessary, we limited the number to enable respondents to review the options quickly and provided examples from different countries and regions. Our goal is for a person to see each option and associated examples and decide whether the option, not necessarily any of the specific examples, is a group with which they identify. Notwithstanding, users can also —or only— ‘self-describe’ using the free-text field provided.
Will you be adding additional options to the questions?
We acknowledge that the schemas may not be perfect. We will periodically review all three diversity data questions and options with the Joint Commitment collective and revise them, if necessary, in line with user feedback and any new research-based best practices related to diversity questionnaires.
What about other diversity questions?
The Joint Commitment sub-group: Diversity data collection in scholarly publishing chose to initially focus on enabling users to self-report their diversity data. Gender identity, ethnic origins, and race—and their intersectionality—are frequently identified as areas of diversity where research institutions and organisations fall short relative to the communities they serve and the workforce pipeline from which they draw. Moreover, findings in the literature point not only to the need for greater diversity and inclusion in the research workforce, but the lack of a diverse and inclusive workforce negatively affects the nature of research questions studied and who benefits from the research outcomes.
We may consider additional diversity dimensions in progressing towards holistic inclusion and equity in research. Research informs us that we must be conscious of diminishing responsiveness to questions when enabling users to self-report additional and sensitive demographic data. Collecting diversity data is an essential first step with experience developing and implementing these diversity schemas, the Joint Commitment plans, 2023, to explore developing and implementing additional diversity questions.
Help, questions and advice
If you have any further questions about BMJ collecting the gender identity and race & ethnicity data of our authors, editors and reviewers, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated: October 2022