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24 October 2021

Publishers Association launch author data collection toolkit

20 September 2021

The Publishers Association has launched guidance for publishing companies seeking to collect data about the protected characteristics of authors, illustrators and translators.

The toolkit, prepared by independent researchers following consultation with publishers, aims to help publishers navigate this area. It includes guidance on creating and sending out an author questionnaire, along with template questions aimed at gathering information about ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability and socio-economic class.

An accompanying report outlines the background and context around the creation of the toolkit. The report authors, independent researchers Emma Shercliff and Maiya Grant, conducted a literature review, gathered information about current practices and interviewed publishers to inform the report and toolkit.

The report makes four recommendations, including that an annual survey should be undertaken in the future and the results of it published. It also recommends that the toolkit is widely shared across the industry.

Publishers told the report authors that they were keen to share best practice and work towards consistency across the industry in terms of how this data is collected. They found widespread recognition that the collection of this information, with authors' consent, was important in terms of better understanding diversity of output. While a few publishing companies have begun to collect this data, the researchers found that many more were keen to do so but would welcome structured guidance.

Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, said: "Building on the work we have done to survey the publishing workforce, we wanted to examine how similar data about authors, illustrators and translators might be collected in accordance with best practice.

"Of course, data collection is only a small part of the much wider ambition to accelerate the creation of a more diverse and inclusive industry. But it has a part to play. Measurement and the accountability and transparency that comes with that are important. This is an area where collaboration and sharing best practice are vital. We hope that the toolkit proves to be a useful resource for the industry."

The first phase of the project focused on gathering information about diversity auditing practices across the industry, and understanding the needs of publishers as they navigated the complexities of monitoring author output by protected characteristics.

An analysis of the data collected in phase one found that only a small number of publishers had developed tools for gathering author diversity data. As such, it was decided that the second phase of the project should involve the development of a toolkit for publishers to enable them to undertake author diversity data collection, rather than aggregating publisher data as originally conceived in the project brief.

For the Author Diversity Report and Toolkit, see the PA website.

For the PA Press release of 17 September 2021, see the PA website.