Gender neutral journal titles

21 journals to be renamed as Springer Nature and Clarivate work together to enable titles to become gender neutral.

In a gesture designed to show its commitment to building an inclusive research culture; championing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the communities it serves; and supporting Sustainable Development Goal 10 aimed at reducing inequalities, Springer Nature plans to rename 21 journal titles in its German language medical portfolio to make them gender neutral. Clarivate will enable the journals to retain their indexing with no break in coverage and no disruption to their journal metrics in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR). 

The journals, part of the Springer Medizin imprint, had been named after the profession to which their content was targeted. In the German language the gender-neutral titles for professions is usually identical to the masculine form. The new titles, coming into effect in June, will now focus on the specialist field of the published research. For example, Der Internist will change to Die Innere Medizin (Internal Medicine) and Der Chirurg (The Surgeon) to Die Chirurgie (Surgery). The content concept, thematic focus and viability of each title will remain unchanged.

However, can changing the names of 21 medical journals bring about significant change in gender inequality? It’s a drop in the bucket and largely symbolic, although certainly of value in setting an example about supporting women researchers. The issue of gender neutrality in language is a thorny one. Even in languages, such as English, that do not automatically assign gender to nouns, a perception exists that some occupations attract one gender over another. Thus, nurses are presumed female unless specified as "male nurses". Doctors are presumed male unless specified as "women doctors". Librarians, on the other hand, are linguistically gender neutral.

More concerning when striving for gender neutrality in language is research conducted by researchers April H. Bailey, Adina Williams and Andrei Cimpian analyzed almost three billion webpages to compare how frequently generalized words for a person , such as individual or people, were associated with a man or a woman. Male was more common, indicating that achieving gender neutrality in language is exceptionally difficult. The study was published on April 1, 2022 in Science Advances.

Both Springer Nature and Clarivate have statements about their support of DEI. Springer Nature’s is here and Clarivate’s is here .

Another linguistic change to promote gender equality in Germany is the petition to rename Bibliothekartag, German Librarians Day. Signed by almost 2,000 people, it challenges not only the masculine version of the German word for librarian but also the lack of diversity inherent in using the word librarian. The thought is that a celebration of German Librarians Day should recognize the diversity of degrees, career paths, and tasks of everyone who works or wants to work in libraries and related areas.