Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world, publishing in 70 languages and 190 countries. As a department of the University of Oxford our mission is to further the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.
What do we want to do?
Oxford University Press is more than 500 years old and has seen a lot of change in that time. As an academic press we strive to keep pace not only with developments in research, teaching and learning, but also the developments taking place in society.
For the last few years, OUP has been on a journey to become more diverse and inclusive, embedding diversity and inclusion (D&I) in every aspect of our business.
At the same time the Higher Education department recognised the need to improve our efforts in equality, diversity, and inclusion. A small volunteer task force ‘HEDIT’ (the HE Diversity and Inclusion Team) was formed to facilitate ideas, research, and new processes to further this objective.
The goals of the team are three-fold:
- To ensure everyone is equipped with knowledge around D&I in our content.
- To create essential and engrained editorial work processes that will improve commissioning standards, breadth of market research, and finished manuscripts.
- To measure the efficacy of our work and output and adapt to new standards.
How are we doing this?
One major initiative is The Global Citizen Hub – this is a platform containing open-access content featuring chapters from our textbooks that cover important societal issues, such as policing and social justice, disability discrimination, and more.
The hub highlights the best of our work in the important areas that students and teachers are engaging with.
The content on the hub broadens continually, just as the definition of D&I broadens. You’ll find chapters covering hate speech and cyber speech, and environmental politics for example.
The authors contributing to the hub are often the ones leading the market in these topical and sensitive issues; such as cutting-edge research from environmental politics author John Dryzek (see ‘Backlash: Grey Radicalism’).
How are we learning?
The Higher Education team spend time every day talking to academics, course developers, and training providers; listening to your needs, understanding your concerns, and paying attention to the aspirations you have for your students’ learning experience. We also want to spend time talking to D&I officers at higher education institutions, finding out what matters to your students, and keeping up to date with the most important issues.
We regularly seek feedback on publishing projects, behaviours, and trends from students through our student panels. We’re now actively asking these students D&I related questions and finding out what they want from their curriculum and university experience.
Every OUP publishing project is subject to peer review, and through these reviews we’re also learning more about what is important to teachers and finding effective ways to address sensitive topics.
This market research, which is done continuously, enables us to work with authors and content providers in a constructive way. We can evidence why it is important to include more case studies from the global south, for example. We can create guidelines which offer advice on approaching sensitive topics; flag where content needs to be appropriately contextualised; and guide them on how to avoid social stereotyping.
This is not only our moral responsibility as publishers of content but makes crucial business sense. We have always reviewed the content our authors propose and work with them to ensure it is the best fit for the market and meets the needs of the teachers and learners. This is not a new way of working, it’s an expanded way of thinking.
What we want to do more of
Our aim is for D&I thinking to become second nature, not an add-on. In order to do that we need to keep learning, be comfortable having difficult conversations, and know when to ask experts for help.
We are looking for people involved in all aspects of D&I in higher education to present to us, train us, and guide us on our journey; and even act as sensitivity readers to offer expert guidance to our authors.
Internally we have welcomed speakers to train us on a variety of issues. We have opened a Q&A box where all staff in the team can pose their questions privately, but the answers can be shared widely.
We also stay plugged into the work and initiatives of our colleagues around OUP by attending focus-groups, sharing best practice and ideas, and taking advantage of training, talks, and events to stay up to date.
We recognise that there is no end-point to this journey: there is always more to be done, and more to learn. We want to collect new colleagues, partners and advisers along the way and we relish the new relationships to be made.
We’d love to hear from you. Please connect with us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org