2019 Science Courage Award


Publishing - A dedication to robust review, transparent policy, and high-quality science

Sara Miller McCune, SAGE Publishing Founder & Executive Chair


Accompanied by: Blaise Simqu, President & CEO and Bob Howard, Senior Vice President of Global Journals

With more than 1,000 scholarly journals, SAGE Publishing is committed to the highest standards of quality review and publication and takes swift and comprehensive action–both proactive and reactive–to improve the research process. In an era of increasing complexity with regard to scholarly process and practice, such an approach is paramount.

For example, in 2014, the scientific monthly Journal of Vibration and Control retracted 60 articles due to a peer review and citation ring in which a researcher fabricated identities as peer reviewers to help clear articles for publication. Following a 14-month investigation based out of SAGE’s London office, SAGE and the journal’s leadership retracted the articles – and then told the public about incident.

While faking research or intentionally advancing inaccurate results is rare in the academic community, SAGE vigilantly looks for abuse, and studies how SAGE’s own practices can improve when problems are identified. SAGE used the London incident to address journal vulnerability to peer review fraud and enact expanded recommendations for journal editors in line with guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics. 

 For example, SAGE asked journal editors to consider ending the option of allowing authors to recommend reviewers for their papers, which is common in fields where the subject matter is so specialized that finding peer reviewers with expertise is challenging. For the editors that maintain this practice, SAGE modified its peer review system to require additional information about any recommended reviewers, including reviewer institution and a reason for recommending the individual. The company requests that an institutional email address be provided for any recommended reviewers and that editors send papers to at least one independent reviewer in all cases. SAGE also details warning signs of a potentially fabricated review, such as a brief or generic response regarding the article.

 The company’s culture–set in place by company founder and executive chairman, Sara Miller McCune–allowed it to take swift action in this and other cases. SAGE is dedicated to improving society through quality education and engaged scholarship. Further supporting this is SAGE’s independence: SAGE does not answer to shareholders and will one day become owned by a charitable trust that will secure its independence indefinitely.

“I have heard it said before that SAGE Publishing is known for being ‘fiercely independent,’ and I’m proud to say that this is absolutely true!” commented Ms. McCune. “This independence also allows us to remain mission-driven for the long-term. As a result, the most talented people in the world of publishing come to us as employees, authors, editors, and society and library partners.”

SAGE Publishing has subsidiary companies and sales offices in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., London, India, East Asia, Melbourne and Latin America. McCune remains actively involved in the company’s ongoing expansion and development.  She is also co-founder and president of the McCune Foundation, based in Ventura, CA.

In 2007, she founded the Santa Barbara-based Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy which launched the award-winning magazine Pacific Standard. In 2017, the now online magazine and the center’s mission were transferred to The Social Justice Foundation, a non-profit organization supported by SAGE Publishing. She is currently a member of the board of directors of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and a member of the board of directors of the Social Science Research Council. 

McCune, a graduate of Queens College, is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Queens College, University of Sussex, University of Bath, and California State University Channel Islands. She is a recipient of the prestigious London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award.

Television Coverage - An Insider’s Look at Why Women End Up on the Cutting Room Floor

Ayah Bdeir, CEO littleBits


Dateline—March 5, 2019:  Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, wrote an article titled Erasing Women in Tech: How 60 Minutes ignored Womens’ Voices, Stories, and Expertise. The piece went viral within a few hours. Critics largely agreed with her — pointing out that by spotlighting a man (Hadi Partovi, the founder of Code.org) in a segment about women and computing, the show was erasing the voices of the countless women-led organizations who have a unique understanding of the problems facing girls and women in tech. Saujani was prompted to write because of a late-scheduled ‘substitution’ on the 60 Minutes show that effectively removed Ayah Bdeir and her company littleBits.

Aided by the hue and cry, Bdeir courageously, politely, and succinctly weighed in:

“Here’s the story of how my company was led to believe the segment was about us and our work in getting girls into STEM, how we were told that our voices would be central to making this a “terrific segment”… and, ultimately, how we were pushed aside in favor of a male spokesperson.”

See https://medium.com/@ayahbdeir/an-insiders-look-at-why-women-end-up-on-the-cutting-room-floor-71a4865a15b0

Ayah Bdeir is an entrepreneur, inventor, and interactive artist. She is the founder and CEO of littleBits, a startup with the goal to "put the power of electronics in the hands of everyone, and to break down complex technologies so that anyone can build, prototype, and invent."

Bdeir earned a Master’s of Science degree from the MIT Media Lab and undergraduate degrees in Computer Engineering and Sociology from the American University in Beirut. In 2010, Bdeir served as a design mentor on the reality TV show, Stars of Science, before starting littleBits in 2011.