Researchers Battle Discrimination: Publishing

Part 2: Bias holds back researchers when sharing their findings.

Posted Feb 13, 2019

Pixabay, No Attribution Required
Source: Pixabay, No Attribution Required

Part 1 of this series covered current obstacles women, people of color, and LGBT+ individuals face in higher education, which holds back research endeavors. This post provides the second and final part of the series, covering obstacles traditionally marginalized groups face in publishing, as well as areas of progress.

In a study across 33 nations, 90.79% of 6,121 scholarly publishing employees studied identified themselves as white; other ethnic and racial groups comprised 2.56% at most, and Hispanic/Latino employees were the least represented (at only 0.77%) (Greco, Wharton, & Brand, 2016; Roh & Clement, 2017). When non-White groups (and women, who disproportionately occupy non-leadership roles in publishing and are underpaid) are underrepresented among those making decisions in publishing, this directly affects the work that is selected for publication (Milliot, 2014; Roh, 2016). This lack of diversity even penalizes people of color and women when blind review is utilized, as so many other variables impact publishing decisions than just the blind review (Roh, Drabinski, & Inefuku, 2015). More needs to be done to promote diverse authorship of published work.


It is wholly unfair some groups are required to work harder for inclusion and equity, but important we recognize these obstacles exist so we have added knowledge to overcome them. Likewise, we can recognize areas where progress is being made. For example, a study of 500 professions revealed that university professors had the ninth highest proportion of gay men and lesbian women, and that the occupation is particularly LGBT+-friendly (Tilcsik, Anteby, & Knight, 2015). Likewise, Stonewall Equality Limited’s recent Top 100 (most welcoming to LGBT+) Employers list included a record number (12) of universities (Matthews, 2016).

Another beacon of hope is how added determination can be a secret weapon. Lerback & Hanson (2017) found the acceptance rate for papers written primarily by women had a significantly (P < 0.05) higher acceptance rate (61%) than those by men (57%) across all age groups, across all author group sizes (including single-author papers), and regardless of the editors’ or reviewers’ genders. The researchers found the most likely reason for the higher acceptance rates to be the authors’ more contemplated approach when submitting manuscripts, such as better targeting their papers to each journal, since groups who expect obstacles prepare better and reduce risks.

Much More Progress Is Needed

Still, much more progress is needed. We should continue to strive for a world where our demographics do not dictate how many hoops we must jump through as we contribute findings. The obstacles women, people of color, and LGBT+ researchers face make me mad. . . but not resigned. In fact, discussing inequity fires me up to submit my research findings more often, push more, and advocate for my colleagues who are female, LGBT+, and/or of color more. I advocate for my white male heterosexual peers, as well, but we must all be mindful of ways in which the playing field is not equitable for researchers so we can continually ask ourselves, “Is there anyone I am overlooking for this opportunity?” and then speak up to ensure no one is excluded.

Whether you receive equal invitations to participate or not, take it upon yourself to submit your work so your discoveries can shine. Speak up even if you sense your potential to contribute is overlooked. For example, Salazar (2013) tells educators of color, “You have to say one thing at every meeting you attend.  It can be a question, a response, a paraphrase—something. You cannot be silent in professional conversations. You cannot be invisible." Gain support from organizations devoted to inclusion and/or to groups traditionally underrepresented in academia.

Also, when you are ever in a role to make inclusion decisions or impact the decision-making of others, I encourage you to brave reflection and discussions concerning bias to uncover partialities that need to be overcome. This article’s tips might seem paltry in the shadow of discrimination’s massive history and nuances, and broader strokes are certainly called for (especially by those in power positions within academia). However, this article’s tips can be very easily assumed by any researchers so fields can benefit from all that diverse voices have to share.

Areas of inequity will never improve without courageous dialogue and conscientious actions. As researchers we have a moral obligation to take part in this charge.


Greco, A., Wharton, R., Brand, A. (2016, February). Demographics of scholarly publishing and communication professionals. Learned Publishing, 29(2), 97-101. doi: 10.1002/leap.1017

Lerback, J. & Hanson, B. (2017, January). Journals invite too few women to referee. Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. Retrieved from

Matthews, D. (2016, January 24). Lecturers ‘disproportionately likely to be gay’, US study suggests. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from

Milliot, J. (2014, September 9). Publishing’s holding pattern: 2014 salary survey. Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved from

Roh, C. (2016). Inequalities in publishing. Urban Library Journal, 22(2), 17-34.

Roh, C., & Clement, G. P. (2017, May 2). Scholarly Publishing Education for Academic Authors: Reframing the Library’s Instruction Role. Digital Initiatives Symposium. Presentation conducted from the University of Sand Diego, Sand Diego, CA.

Roh, C., Drabinski, E., Inefuku, H. (2015). Scholarly Communication as a Tool for Social Justice and Diversity. Association of College and Research Libraries Annual Meeting. Panel conducted from the Oregon Convention Center, Portland, OR.

Salazar, R. (2013, May 17). Top 10 reasons teachers should blog. Retrieved from

Tilcsik, A., Anteby, M., & Knight, C. R. (2015, September 1). Concealable stigma and occupational segregation: Toward a theory of gay and lesbian occupations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 60(3), 446-481. doi:

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