ACS Publications editors-in-chief outline steps to confront racism in chemistry publishing

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2020 — The American Chemical Society published today an editorial signed by all of its editors-in-chief and deputy editors acknowledging the deleterious impacts that racism and discrimination have had on scientists from underrepresented communities, especially Black chemists. The editorial includes demographic data of publications and calls for action to combat discrimination.

“We all have a responsibility to eradicate racism and discrimination in the science and engineering community; indeed, in order to make a real difference we need to be antiracist,” the editors write in the editorial. “The tragic events we have seen in the Black community provide great urgency to this goal. The work will be difficult and will force us to confront hard realities about our beliefs and actions. And we fully expect that you, and everyone in the community, will hold us accountable.” 

As a result of systemic and institutionalized racism faced by Black students, only 4.5% of U.S. chemistry Ph.D. recipients and only 3.2% of U.S. chemistry postdocs are Black. In the upper echelons of academia, the lack of representation becomes even more stark: Only 1.6% of chemistry professors at the top 50 U.S. schools are Black. Publications and citations form much of the basis for advancement through an academic career, so ACS appreciates it is critical that it, as the world’s leading society publisher, examine its role in enabling entrenched inequities.

“There is no place for discrimination in science, but it’s sadly a reality that too many of our readers, authors and fellow researchers face daily,” says Sarah Tegen, Ph.D., senior vice president, ACS Publications Division. “The underrepresentation of Black scientists in chemistry shows us how overdue we are for change, and we aim to use our platform to advocate for reform.”

To support this reform, the editorial calls for urgent action from across the global chemistry enterprise to combat the continuing injustice, bias and overt discrimination that Black researchers face daily, and which inhibits scientific progress.

“Science needs diversity,” says Jodie Lutkenhaus, Ph.D., deputy editor of ACS Applied Polymer Materials. “Variety in perspectives and experiences contribute to a variety of approaches and ultimately creates better science. We can no longer allow scientists and their research to face impediments to discovery because of discrimination.”

As part of its effort to improve, ACS Publications will implement specific training for all ACS editors to recognize and interrupt bias in peer review, and it is developing an actionable diversity plan for its journals. ACS Publications will expand its collection of data on diversity that it gathers from its editors, advisors, reviewers and authors, and it will make these data available annually, ensuring transparency.

These are only the beginning steps the Society will take, and as it moves forward and continues to increase its efforts to support meaningful and sustained change, it encourages the chemistry community at large to take action in their own lives and careers to confront racism and discrimination in the lab, classroom and beyond.

“Chemistry is so important because its discoveries impact everyone in our society,” says James Milne, Ph.D, president, ACS Publications. “For too long, however, the field has not represented the diverse communities in which we live. By challenging our own beliefs and actions, and through the changes we are making at ACS Publications, we will strive to build a better scientific community, and ultimately a better world."

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people. The Society is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a specialist in scientific information solutions (including SciFinder® and STN®), its CAS division powers global research, discovery and innovation. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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