Message from the ISMTE Board of Directors
During the last several weeks, the catastrophic consequences of systemic racism in the U.S. have come to the fore in the minds and hearts of Americans, and of those who live around the world. The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, among those before them, shine a light on the continued atrocities and inequities that exist in a nation that claims to be “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” These heinous acts show that we are divisible, to a fatal degree.
We in the scholarly publishing community are not immune to the discriminatory behaviors and racist mindsets that have infiltrated every facet of life. Research has shown a lack of diversity and inclusion in scholarly communications at all levels – from the research that is conducted, to the reviewers who evaluate manuscripts, to the individuals who lead journals and sit on editorial boards, to the composition of publishing organizations. We have been woefully inadequate in our efforts to make the publishing enterprise a truly inclusive endeavor.
We at ISMTE firmly support the public outcries denouncing racism and calling for real change. We are an international organization that is built on the collective wisdom of people from all over the world, uniting diverse points of view and input from all individuals, regardless of race, color, gender, or creed. We know such inclusion maximizes the success of any initiative, drawing on the creativity, skills, and viewpoints of many. We stand together with many other societies in the scholarly publishing industry in our participation with the Coalition for Diversity & Inclusion in Scholarly Publishing (C4DISC), which comprises 10 trade and professional organizations and was formed to discuss and address issues of diversity and inclusion. A core outcome of C4DISC is its Joint Statement of Principles, of which ISMTE is a signatory. Key to this statement is the notion that “To ensure sustainability and growth, our industry must commit to long-term efforts to curb the deeply ingrained patterns of exclusion and inequities in our practices, policies, and frameworks.” ISMTE is fully committed to these principles and the mission of C4DISC. Part of this commitment is acknowledging where we fall short, and we pledge to continue to improve the diversity in our governance and leadership.
It is our sincere hope that you and your editorial teams take time to reflect on the events of the last several weeks and on the history of racism, considering how you might contribute to change or take action. We offer you here resources and organizations for learning about racism and ways you can become involved.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano
Black Lives Matter
Global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes
The Innocence Project
Exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People secures the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons
Provides a broad range of legal services for civil rights issues
With hope for peace and understanding,
The ISMTE Board of Directors
At the beginning of this month I co-chaired a meeting for the publishing component group of the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) where we considered the impact of COVID-19 on the scientific publishing industry. Although the pandemic is not even six months old, it has already made its mark on our field and will likely continue to do so for months and perhaps years to come.
The group of publishing professionals who attended the CMSS meeting spoke about the effects of COVID-19 on peer-review policies and procedures, noting that many journals are curtailing requests for additional experiments, suspending time limits on revisions, and accelerating the review and publication of SARS-CoV-2 research. In some cases, journals are waiving article processing charges for such research. We also discussed how COVID-19 will affect research output. Will it increase? Will it decrease because of lab closures and reduced research funding? Clearly journals that review SARS-CoV-2 research will see a jump in submissions – and it’s not just infectious disease journals – other specialties are seeing this research too, including hematology, cardiology, neurology, gastroenterology, and oncology. A graph from the March 26 edition of Nature demonstrates this influx. In just two months’ time, the number of submissions of coronavirus research tripled. You can see that the jump in preprints was even greater.
Speaking of preprints, our group debated their value during the pandemic. We acknowledged their ability to accelerate the dissemination of research around COVID-19, providing essential data relevant to the pandemic. But we also remarked on their downsides – the potential to promote false information, the development of policies around misleading or inaccurate information, and their power to sow public panic.
Interestingly, it seems as though some think the pandemic has reminded us of the value of peer-reviewed journals. In an April 30 article in Research Information, Mark Carden, chairman of the Researcher to Reader Conference, states “And, yes, in our own scholarly communications world, we currently appreciate the rapid global scientific response to this pandemic, with new coronavirus article preprints appearing every few hours. But we still value credibility, expertise and reputation, that has been slowly developed through a complex trust network.” To support this thought, a search on PubMed shows us that just since December of last year, nearly 11,000 articles related to COVID-19 have been published in the scientific literature.
Finally, the CMSS group considered perhaps one of the most troubling aspects of all of this – the economic cloud that is resulting in lab closures, layoffs, furloughs, and a potential downturn in commercial advertising for journals. While many of us may consider ourselves lucky to work in an industry that can function via remote work, we still face uncertain financial consequences.
What changes have you seen as a result of COVID-19 in your editorial offices? Have you adjusted procedures and policies? Have you seen a flood of submissions or are you experiencing a dry spell as research funding has contracted and scientists have been shut out of their labs or forced to the front lines if they are also clinicians? Has your journal changed its view on preprints? Has your organization been forced to issue layoffs or furloughs? I’d love to hear from you and learn from the collective wisdom of our membership about how you’re dealing with this – please join me on our Discussion Forum to share your thoughts and experiences.
Apropos of learning from our community during this time, ISMTE President-Elect, Meghan McDevitt, has compiled a collection of testimonials in this month’s issue of EON of how ISMTE members are coping with physical distancing, balancing childcare and schooling, and modifying editorial office/peer-review workflows. And for those of you who need some tips on managing those endless Zoom calls you’re having, co-editor of EON, Lindsey Brounstein, has put together a helpful overview of the video conferencing platform in this month’s “Taming Technology” column.We’re all experiencing change in the industry right now – in different ways, spanning multiple areas, and to varying degrees. But it seems as though we all wish the same thing (as is evidenced by how we often end our emails), so I’ll say it here: Stay safe and stay well.