Inclusive Language in NIST Technical Series Publications
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Research Library occupies the unique position of serving NIST both as publisher of the NIST Technical Series, and in an archival capacity, responsible for collecting and preserving copies of NIST's publications. In June 2020, NIST received comments from the public about biased and exclusionary language in our NIST Technical Series publications (e.g., master/slave and blacklist/whitelist). While the authors responsible for the publications in question discussed how they were going to address the comments, the Research Library decided to update our author instructions with a new section on using inclusive language. After researching and developing an internal draft, we solicited feedback from NIST colleagues in July 2020, including those in our DEI offices and groups, and from the public after external release in February 2021. The guidance changed dramatically over this 7-month period, as we pivoted from a table of words to avoid and their preferred alternatives to contextual examples taken directly from historical NIST publications. During this project we learned that there is no template or standard process for developing inclusive language guidelines that will work for all library publishers. However, it is important to recognize that this activity will feel personal, as the words, idioms, and phrases we use are woven into our personalities and experiences. The only way to succeed in providing an inclusive, welcoming space in technical publications is to solicit feedback from as many under-represented groups as possible, and approach conversations about inclusive language with respect and humility. Future plans for this project include reviewing and updating the guidance on a yearly basis, creating a disclaimer for historical publications, and updating our procedures to include editing biased language as a reason for publishing a revision.