We present a series of commissioned articles authored by people from groups that are under-represented in research, to highlight past and present scientific contributions in microbiology and to increase the diversity of Nature Microbiology authors.
Diversity in science is essential to generate a strong community, to boost empowerment and engagement, and to bring different perspectives that are essential to advance research. As a journal, we seek to represent the entire field of microbiology, and to do so by publishing research and commentary from a diverse authorship, meaning those with different genders, ethnicities, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, as well as people with physical disabilities, or that are neurodivergent. Diversity in our author group is important because science is practiced in a diverse society that journals should faithfully represent. To help us achieve this goal, we are partnering with various community groups to better represent microbiologists in our pages. As a first step, we are launching a series of articles to amplify diverse voices, and in this issue we announce our first such partnership, with the Black Microbiologists Association (BMA).
In the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) academic communities, there is a clear lack of diversity. The under-representation of minority groups in STEMM research is unfortunately pervasive, with only a small percentage of people from minority ethnic or gender identity groups occupying senior STEMM positions. As reported in peer-reviewed studies, gender and ethnic disparities in science are manifested by unequal authorships1 and citations2, and under-representation of certain groups in medical research3 studies, grant applications4 and funding5. A recent large-scale bibliometric analysis6 examined the intersection between under-represented minority ethnic groups, authorship and scientific research areas in the United States, demonstrating that Black, Latinx and women authors are under-represented in many STEMM fields and are more frequently authors in less-well-cited fields.
A long and growing list of studies highlighting inequalities in STEMM disciplines is a call to action. To make science a more inclusive and equitable environment, a systemic change, with strong diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) culture and policy is needed, as discussed by Lerback et al. in a recent Comment in Nature Communications7. We need to take responsibility and conscious action to foster activities that make the research community more inclusive. It is imperative that we consider equity and justice as essential in our communities and institutions if we want to see real change, claims researcher Beronda Montgomery8. As an example, the creation of the National Summer Undergraduate Research Program (NSURP)9 provides research experience to under-represented minority groups that would not normally have such opportunities in their home institutions. Too often, however, it is members of under-represented groups that shoulder the brunt of the work that is needed to make change happen.
In scientific publishing, increasing awareness of the issues around DEI has resulted in different journals taking specific actions to increase diversity in science. For example, Nature Medicine has launched a collection of articles on DEI in medical research from multiple perspectives. Several publishers, including Springer Nature, have started a pilot initiative10 to collect information on race or ethnicity and gender from scientists submitting their work, to document representation in journals with the goal of identifying and correcting potential editorial and reviewing biases.
In 2020, the Nature Microbiology editorial team joined the academic Strike for Black Lives, and the #ShutDownSTEM day, and published an Editorial11, in which we discussed our actions (or inactions) and detailed strategies to improve diversity in our authors and reviewers. Our collaboration with the BMA was inspired by these discussions. The initiative comprises a series of Journal Club pieces, written by microbiologists who are BMA members. Each Journal Club will highlight a published primary research article that we think has broad appeal, because it reports a substantial conceptual advance, or reports a technical tour de force, or has value because it reports a key advance in a field. Papers that are highlighted will be chosen by authors from the BMA with input from Nature Microbiology editors. Journal Clubs will be written by two or more authors (usually one senior, the other junior) to facilitate mentorship, and all pieces will be edited and published with support from our editorial team.
In this issue of Nature Microbiology, research investigator and BMA co-founder Ariangela Kozik contributes a Turning Points article that shares some of the life events that have shaped her career and her passionate advocacy for equity for Black microbiologists. This piece sets the stage for our first Journal Club article of the series, written by Kozik and graduate student Amali Stephens. They highlight a study published by Carson et al. in 2018 that links psychosocial stress, the gut microbiota and race. We will curate these and future Journal Club articles in a series named Amplifying diverse voices, creating a browsable and frequently updated resource of commentaries written by under-represented microbiologists.
Our aim is to establish partnerships with under-represented author groups that enable us to commission scientific critiques from the broadest possible set of authors. We hope that this will nurture collaborative networking opportunities among microbiologists, aid training and career progression, and organically increase the diversity of our reviewers and authors. We believe that partnerships with under-represented author groups will foster constructive interactions between editors and authors from all backgrounds. We commit to provide a journal where great science from the whole community is highlighted.
We hope that developing a partnership with the BMA will lay the foundation for collaboration with microbiologists from other under-represented groups, and we encourage interested groups to get in touch.
Our Journal Club partnership initiative is one small step towards improved diversity, equity, justice and inclusion in Nature Microbiology. We hope that our series of Journal Clubs inspires you to partner with us to help us to showcase the remarkable breadth of microbiology research with a representative, diverse and authoritative set of author voices.
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Amplifying diverse voices in microbiology. Nat Microbiol 7, 1501–1502 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41564-022-01248-z