Conducting in-depth research entails much more than asking questions, collecting and analyzing data, and presenting the results. Editors, peer reviewers, government agencies, and funders also influence the research process. Researchers rely on these outside actors for publication, professional development, data frameworks and collection, and financial support.

At each step of the research process, these people and agencies act as gatekeepers, and their feedback can be rooted in systems that reflect structural and institutional racism and bias. In our recent report, Do No Harm Guide: Applying Equity Awareness in Data Visualization, we describe how researchers and data communicators can improve how they represent and talk about diversity across groups and communities. In this blog post, we focus on gatekeepers’ roles in the data communication ecosystem and how they can help promote more diverse, equitable, and inclusive research.

Publishing in peer-reviewed academic journals is a critical part of many researchers’ careers. The process usually entails a researcher submitting work to be reviewed by a journal editor. If it passes, the research is shared with peer experts, who provide comments and potentially approve publishing the work. If the peer reviewers do not approve the submission, the researcher may need to refine their work and try another outlet, where the process repeats.

In addition to funding large amounts of research, the federal government has significant power and influence on how surveys are designed and how data are collected. In turn, this influence affects how research is conducted. Agencies such as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the US Census Bureau collect widely used datasets, and if they were to change how they collect or categorize data on race and ethnicity, many other agencies, firms, and organizations would follow.

Just as researchers should be responsible for taking a racial equity lens to their work, funders should be held to a similar standard. Together, the research community and those potentially affected by research can track how they disburse funds and requests for analysis and which organizations and individuals predominately receive these resources. This accountability is perhaps best enforced by the research community, because of their direct connections to funders, but there are also avenues for other stakeholders to raise awareness.

Read the full article about racial equity and inclusive data by Jonathan Schwabish and Alice Feng at Urban Institute.