Last month, I attended the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s Annual Convention in Atlanta, USA. Among the many interesting presentations on identity, attitudes, methods, and more, one session that stood out to me was the panel discussion entitled “Hidden Stories of Marginalized Scholars and Scholarship: Reflections and Ways to Move Forward,” which was chaired by Franki King, Sarah Huff, and William Chopik. The panelists who shared their experiences and frustrations were Valerie Jones Taylor, Olivia Atherton, and Kathleen Bogart with moderation from Alison Ledgerwood.
Through their sharing, I learned more about the struggles of researchers studying marginalized groups. For example, obtaining large samples is more challenging when you are studying groups that are not well-represented in university student participant pools or that have rare identities in the population at large. There are also more hurdles to clear in order to publish work on marginalized groups, for example, longer wait times for peer review in order to secure qualified peer reviewers or experiencing rejections with suggestions that work on these groups is better suited for specialty journals. Researchers who are members of marginalized groups may also face the challenge of reviewers seeing them as unable to adopt an unbiased scientific perspective when studying members of their own group whereas this challenge is rarely raised against majority group members studying their own group. Indeed, researchers who belong to the group they are studying, especially when it is a marginalized group, may have better insight into their target population than majority group members.
Among the suggestions for improving the research and publication process were calls for editors to take a firm hand in addressing any biases or unwarranted criticisms that may emerge during peer review. Providing clear instructions on the journal’s scope, criteria for manuscripts, and expectations for peer reviewers can also help to facilitate the review process and remove opportunities for bias. Many Nature portfolio journals, including my own journal, Communications Psychology, have adopted a transparent peer review process, where all reviews and editorial decisions are published alongside the articles. The researchers involved in the session noted that even though this may fail to change biases in peer review, transparent peer review has the potential to validate their experiences by making them part of the public record.