Diversity and equity in publishing: Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute

Catherine Cocks Discussion

The theme of the 2019 Triangle Scholarly Communication Institute was equity in scholarly communications. In addition to the summary on the website, check out #TriangleSCI on Twitter. I had the chance to talk about this year’s event with Niccole Leilanionapae‘aina Coggins, who’s the editorial, design, and production coordinator and assistant project editor at the University of Virginia Press. She is a member of a team developing three toolkits for advancing equity in scholarly publishing. (Check out the projects pursued by the other teams, too.)

Niccole said the need for these toolkits became obvious after people of color in publishing testified anonymously (here and here) about the racism they faced on the job. These testimonials were posted about the time that a major initiative to diversify the academic publishing workforce, the Mellon Foundation’s University Press Diversity Fellowship, was renewed. The intention of the program (first funded in 2016 with four presses and extended to four more in 2018) was to address the whiteness of university press staffs by building a pipeline bringing people of color into the enterprise. But bringing them in clearly isn’t enough. We need to make sure the workplaces they enter are respectful and offer plentiful opportunities to build careers. 

Niccole’s team intends to contribute to making scholarly publishing more hospitable for professionals of color by offering advice and tools to three groups: organizations, the POCs themselves, and their allies. Inspired by the American Alliance of Museum’s guides for Gender Transition and Transgender Inclusion in the Museum Workplace: A Toolkit for Trans Individuals, Institutions, and Coworkers, Niccole’s team opted on an antiracism framework while acknowledging the need for similar guides that cover gender, LGTBQ+, ability, and so forth.

Each toolkit is designed for a distinct purpose and/or user, addressing the many levels at which we need to operate to promote equity. The one for organizations will address issues of systemic or structural bias and offer a series of best practices and tools for broadening recruiting and hiring, mitigating implicit bias, improving mentorship and retention practices, and creating affinity groups. Given the legal and organizational policies that already govern many of these practices, the team is reaching out to HR professionals and others in developing this kit. Look for it in May 2020.

The allies toolkit provides advice on how colleagues can intervene in difficult situations precipitated by implicit or overt bias, tools for promoting changes in policies that disadvantage people of color, and ideas for building mentoring relationships. Drafted at the 2019 Institute in October, this toolkit is due out in February 2020.

The professionals of color toolkit offers tools for handling racism in the workplace in its many forms, from microaggressions and implicit bias to the use of offensive language and demeaning assumptions. It will be available in April 2020.

Do you have strategies that are effective for addressing bias in your workplace? What are some specific habits we can practice to help us be better colleagues?

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Feeding the Elephant first wrote about the Triangle Scholarly Communications Institute’s Toolkits for Equity in Scholarly Publishing project in the fall of 2019. On August 6, the project published the first of three planned resources, the Antiracism Toolkit for Allies. Toolkits for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and for organizations in the scholarly publishing community are also in the works.

In the past few years, university presses, like many other organizations, have recognized the need to do much more work to make their ranks inclusive and equitable. Our previous posts on this topic can be found in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion button on the right side of the Elephant’s home page. What publishers haven’t had are resources showing them how to disrupt racism and transform their workplaces and the culture of scholarly publishing. The Toolkits for Equity project leaders, Niccole Coggins (University of Virginia Press), Jocelyn Dawson (Duke University Press), Melanie Dolechek (Society for Scholarly Publishing), and Gisela Fosado (Duke University Press), decided to create those resources with the TSCI’s support.

As the project’s press release says, “The toolkit provides a common framework for analysis, a shared vocabulary and history, and best practices to address racial inequities specific to the scholarly publishing community.” Many Association of University Presses members contributed to its development.

Published under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and hosted by the Coalition for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (C4DISC), the toolkit is freely available and may be redistributed and customized.

Want to know more? The Toolkits for Equity creators will present their work at the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (ISMTE) Virtual Conference (August 6) and the Council of Science Editors fall symposium webinar (October 20).