Leading academic journals have introduced “citation justice” with scholars urged to include “diverse” races and genders in their references.
Professors seeking coveted spots in prestigious publications undergo extensive scrutiny as part of the peer-review process, which tests the rigour of their research before it can be printed.
But now they face a new hurdle, as some are told to rethink the sources cited to justify their claims, to ensure “straight, white men” based in the West do not dominate the field.
The new diversity push at the heart of academia strives to tackle “under-representation” and eliminate bias in the footnotes scholars include in their studies.
At the British Medical Journal, founded in 1840, staff are “actively working to tackle racism and injustice” in publication cycles to boost “equality, diversity and inclusion”.
“The vast majority of editors of the top-cited medical journals are straight, white, men based in Europe and the US and research conducted by women in top-cited medical journals receive fewer citations,” the journal’s editors wrote in a recent letter.
They added: “Journals cannot simply state that they can only publish what they receive and are therefore immune to bias and prejudice.
“Journals consist of curations of scholarly content and published articles are passed through editorial and peer review processes: people are involved in these processes and everyone carries their own inherent bias.”
Quotas above quality, academics fear
But academics have privately expressed alarm at the potential for slipping standards, where journals value citation diversity quotas above the quality of ideas.
Meanwhile, guidelines for the 45-year-old Review of International Studies, published by Cambridge University Press, urge “paying particular attention to the representativeness of citational practices manifested in all article submissions”.
“Recent studies have highlighted the possible under-representation of female and minority scholars in article citations,” authors are advised.
“Review of International Studies is committed to ensuring that scholars receive appropriate intellectual acknowledgement through citations, regardless of race, gender, class, professional standing, or other categorical attributes.”
Major academic publishing houses are following suit. Wiley says many editors and journal owners are seeking its help in producing “diversity, equity and inclusion statements”.
Its guidance urges the use of inclusive language and “encourage[s] authors to adopt more inclusive citation practices”. The Journal of Market Studies, a leading paper in Wiley’s stable, says it is encouraging authors to “cite sources historically excluded from academia”.
And Sage Publishing is “working to increase ethnic diversity and gender diversity” in its peer-review process.
‘You musn’t offend anyone’
Prof Dennis Hayes, director of the Academics for Academic Freedom group, said: “At the heart of the contemporary university is the idea that you must not offend and never emotionally upset anyone – a whole industry has been created around this therapeutic culture.
“It’s easier to get published if you conform to it and don’t question it.”
Last week scholars told The Telegraph they face “woke gatekeepers” when securing taxpayers’ funding for research projects, as they feared attempts at censorship were seeping into long-established academic practices.