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The role of sensitivity readers in academic publishing

Updated: Sep 8, 2023


Inclusivity and diversity are at the heart of a thriving academic research community. In the industry, we see institutions, publishers and researchers striving for more inclusive practices every day. One outcome of this has been the growth of the sensitivity reader role within the publishing ecosystem.


How does sensitivity reading impact inclusivity and diversity in research? Explore top tips in this post from Director of Content and Research, Megan Taylor.


What does sensitivity reading mean and why is it important?

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Sensitivity readers are individuals who are experienced in identifying and addressing issues of bias, stereotypes, and other harmful representations in text. They help authors and publishers to ensure that their work is inclusive and respectful of all audiences.


There are many reasons why authors and publishers might choose to use sensitivity readers in academic publishing. Some of the most common reasons include:


  • To avoid stereotypes and bias: Sensitivity readers can help to identify and remove stereotypes and bias from text. This is important for ensuring that all audiences are represented fairly and accurately.

  • To improve accuracy: Sensitivity readers can also help to improve the accuracy of text by providing feedback on cultural and linguistic nuances. This is especially important for work that deals with marginalized or underrepresented groups.

  • To increase awareness: Sensitivity readers can help to raise awareness of issues of bias and representation in text. This can be an important step in creating a more inclusive and equitable publishing industry.

The benefits of using sensitivity readers


Improved accuracy and authenticity

Sensitivity readers can help to ensure that text is accurate and authentic by providing feedback on cultural and linguistic nuances. This is especially important for work that deals with marginalized or underrepresented groups. For example, a sensitivity reader who is familiar with the experiences of people with different abilities can help an author to avoid perpetuating stereotypes or making inaccurate statements about different abilities.


Increased diversity and inclusion

Working with a sensitivity reader can also help to increase diversity and inclusion in academic publishing by providing feedback on the representation of marginalized groups in text.

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For example, a sensitivity reader who is a member of a minority group can help an author to ensure that the characters and experiences of that group are portrayed accurately and respectfully.




Reduced risk of backlash

Another benefit of working with a sensitivity reader is the reduced risk of backlash from readers negatively affected by the text. This can help to protect authors and publishers from legal action or damage to their reputation. For example, a sensitivity reader can help an author to identify and remove stereotypes or offensive language from their work.


The challenges of using sensitivity readers


Finding the right sensitivity reader

One of the biggest challenges of using sensitivity readers is finding the right one. It is important to find a sensitivity reader who is familiar with the topic of the work and who has the expertise to identify and address issues of bias and representation. This can be difficult, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sensitivity reading.


Some factors to consider when choosing a sensitivity reader include:

  • The topic of the work: The sensitivity reader should be familiar with the topic of the work and be able to identify potential issues of bias or representation.

  • The expertise of the sensitivity reader: The sensitivity reader should have experience working with marginalized groups and should be able to provide feedback that is respectful and constructive.


Accepting feedback from the sensitivity reader

Authors may not always agree with the feedback from the sensitivity reader. This is understandable, as authors have a personal connection to their work and may be protective of it. However, it is important to be open to feedback and to be willing to make changes to the work if necessary.


The feedback from a sensitivity reader can be valuable in helping to ensure that the work is accurate, authentic, and inclusive. By being open to feedback, authors can improve the quality of their work and make it more accessible to a wider audience.


Our top tips for accepting feedback from a sensitivity reader

  1. Listen to the feedback with an open mind.

  2. Consider the feedback carefully.

  3. Ask questions if you do not understand the feedback.

  4. Be willing to make changes to the work if necessary.

  5. Thank the sensitivity reader for their feedback.

By following these tips, authors can create a more positive and productive experience when working with sensitivity readers.


Conclusion


Sensitivity readers can play an important role in ensuring that academic publishing is inclusive and respectful of all audiences. By using sensitivity readers, authors and publishers can help to create work that is accurate, authentic, and diverse.

I hope this blog post is helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions.


If you work in scholarly communications and want to find a sensitivity reader for your own work or the work of an author you work with, we recommend finding out which sensitivity readers your organisation regularly works with, or starting a conversation using a specialist service. Current services include:


Check out our related content for more tips around inclusivity:






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