Council Commentary

Population Council Scholarly Journals: Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Population Council publishes two leading scholarly journals: Population and Development Review and Studies in Family Planning. For more than fifty years, peer-reviewed social science, public health, and demographic research in these publications has played a pivotal role in shaping the field and building the evidence base for improving policy and practice around the world.

We are proud of our journals’ impact and global community of authors, reviewers, and readers, while acknowledging that we need to do more to accelerate change internally and in our field. 

We recognize the power asymmetries in scholarly publishing and communications. As the authors of “An Antiracist Framework for Scholarly Publishing” write: “The fallout from our industry’s lack of diversity includes racial bias in citation impact, workplace microaggressions, racially insensitive and offensive business strategies, and racial and ethnic disparities in research studies.” Other authors in our field have shown that there are also issues of pay, equity, institution bias, and nepotism in scholarly publishing; racism and epistemic injustice in the fields our journals serve; gender bias in academia; the effects of the pandemic on female researchers; and the critical role of funders

Long overdue conversations and changes in our field are addressing these issues. Wiley, our journals’ publisher, is signatory to a 44 organizations collective focused on ensuring more inclusion and diversity in publishing. The values shared by this collective and our journals include understanding and reflecting the diversity of our research community, transparently sharing policies, measurements, language and standards, and more.   

Changes at Wiley and other publishers directly impact our journals. A recent example is this updated transgender-inclusive name change policy.  Wiley is also a founding member of Research4Life, a public-private partnership providing institutions in lower income countries with free or low-cost online access to academic and professional content, with the goal of reducing the knowledge gap between high-income countries and low-and middle-income countries. 6,000+ institutions have access to the Population Council’s journals through Research4Life. You can read more about Wiley’s ongoing efforts here.   

Beyond publisher-led initiatives, individual journals have a responsibility to act. Academic journals play a crucial role in breaking the cycle of social injustice in academic careers and must proactively address issues like implicit bias, gender balance, and institutional favoritism and access—as well as citation and publication bias.

To tackle these and other biases that perpetuate injustices in scholarship, the Population Council’s journals commit to build on efforts to date and in particular to:

  • Create a welcoming environment that is inclusive and equitable. We will add an inclusivity statement to our website supporting all potential authors, reviewers, and readers; update our submission guidelines encouraging authors submitting research on LMIC countries to collaborate with co-authors based in those countries; and include language explicitly stating qualifications for authorship to discourage the inclusion of “honorary authors” who have not made a significant contribution to a paper but whose name/institution might be added to influence the potential for publication. 
  • Diversify peer review. Both our journals benefit tremendously from the dedication of volunteer peer reviewers. To further diversify this group, we will actively seek reviewers from and based in LMICs where research for a paper was conducted. 
  • Diversify editorships and editorial committees. Serving on a journal’s editorial committee confers professional benefits and the opportunity to directly influence scholarly dialogue in a given field. To ensure more equitable access to these high-profile positions, we will codify and communicate term limits for editorial committee members of our journals, along with the process for recruiting new members. We will diversify and expand our editorial committees to reflect the varied backgrounds, academic experience, ethnicities, and genders of our authors, readers, and research. 
  • Collect and analyze demographic data about authors and reviewers. We are working with Wiley to collect self-reported data from authors and reviewers to provide a more accurate reflection of our journals’ demographics than we have had thus far. We will analyze available data to inform future policies and practices and hope to collaborate with other journals to better understand how to address problems within our academic publishing space.
  • Support authors with disabilities or neurodiverse conditions. We acknowledge that some authors may have disabilities or neurodiverse conditions and commit to giving support where needed—for example, by arranging calls to discuss feedback. We encourage all authors to have an open conversation about their needs throughout the peer review and publication processes. 

This ongoing work is informed by and aligned with the Population Council’s broader Agenda for Change, through which we have committed to becoming an antiracist organization and addressing wider issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of our work, systems, structures, and processes. The Population Council believes that diverse and inclusive perspectives are essential for scientific discoveries that lead to a stronger, more equitable, and compassionate society.  

We look forward to sharing progress on our journals’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and welcome your feedback. Contact us at publications@popcouncil.org.