Scan the news headlines, and it’s clear that our planet and society are facing complex global challenges on an unprecedented scale. Last month, a UN report found that up to 1 million species are at risk of extinction if we don’t take immediate action.
For many in academia and beyond, a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach is seen as the best option for finding the solutions so urgently required. The implications of climate change alone are immense: some countries are already struggling to cope with food and water shortages and the aftermath of extreme weather events. Approximately 1.5 billion more people worldwide will experience stressed water conditions by 2050.
Meanwhile, we are dealing with rapid population growth, people living longer than ever before, and other issues that could impact lives on a global scale. The connections between these challenges are so deeply intertwined, it’s no longer possible to look at them in isolation. For example, responding to climate change will require input from experts in energy, technology, health, refugee issues, hydrology, agriculture and more.
If the research community is to continue down its current path of eliminating silos and sharing ideas, change is critical. For researchers, that means new ways of working. Already, researchers are increasingly looking beyond the borders of their own disciplines to partner with scientists in other fields; collaborative, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research are all on the rise, supported by funder policies.
For the wider research community, the blurring of discipline boundaries has led to a need for new types of journals with aims and scopes broad enough to encompass the new research findings. And if researchers are to continue collaborating at the scale required, they need (and want) tools that make it easier to share data and improve reproducibility.
New open access journal connects health, energy and technology
The first issue of Global Transitions has just been published by KeAi, Elsevier’s joint venture with China Science Publishing and Media. Uniquely, the open access journal has three separate Editors-in-Chief and editorial boards, each devoted to one of the journal’s three topical sections: Health Transitions, Energy Transitions and Technology Transitions. The editors’ hope is that enhancing understanding and aligning action in these fields will help secure the solutions needed. Here, they share their thoughts on the challenges we face and what needs to be done to address them.
Kristie L. Ebi, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, Health Transitions
Dr. Kristie L Ebi, Prof of Public Health Sciences at the University of Washington and Editor-in-Chief of Health Transitions for the Global Transitions journal, writes:
While people are living healthier and longer lives than their ancestors, at the same time, health inequalities are widening and global environmental challenges are altering disease burdens and patterns.
Over the coming century, our health will increasingly depend on not only addressing the traditional drivers of injury, illness and death, but focusing on the transitions taking place. We are witnessing the globalization of ideas, goods, services and human movement; the energy transition to low-carbon fuels; increasing urbanization; the digital revolution; and new technologies for diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Big data and artificial intelligence hold the promise of identifying new disease patterns and treatment opportunities.
By increasing understanding of the intersections between our health and these transitions, we can improve planning and management to proactively protect and promote population health and wellbeing. And we can avoid repeating the past, where factors adversely impacting health were often identified only after exposure had occurred.
At the same time, we need to increase our understanding of how human activities, such as dietary and energy choices, influence transitions. For example, non-communicable diseases are now the largest contributors to premature morbidity and mortality and are often associated with unhealthy behaviors and metabolic factors linked to diet.
Luisa F. Cabeza, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, Energy Transitions
Energy is a crucial resource in today’s global society. However, its creation and use have far-reaching consequences, impacting big themes such as climate change and geo-political factors, as well as many more “trivial” elements of our daily lives.
Several important aspects of energy are currently experiencing a period of transformation. These include energy production (with regards to both fossil fuels and renewable energy sources), transportation and distribution (e.g., electricity and district networks), consumption (including demand-side management and energy efficiency), and energy security and access. Energy transitions also play a crucial role in climate change mitigation.
Energy technologies are developing rapidly, allowing new and more efficient ways to deliver energy on varying scales. Globally, energy is evolving from a centralized system, with large production plants, to a distributed system, in which each of us becomes a ‘prosumer,’ both producing and consuming energy. As a result, consumers have an increasingly important role to play in improving the efficiency of these systems.
Dr. Jin Chen, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, Technology Transitions
Dr. Jin Chen, Professor in the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Editor-in-Chief of Technology Transitions, writes:
In an increasingly competitive international environment, we need to understand how to effectively manage technology and to gain both high economic value and social benefit from it. With serious global issues such as rising unemployment, climate change and poverty, it is critical to address the pressing challenge of proper use of technology for sustainable and inclusive growth.
Technology Transitions addresses the question of how human-centered, green technology and frugal technology can play a more constructive role in modern society.
In the internet era, innovation intelligence is transcending borders and languages at an unprecedented rate, yet the ability to benefit from it seems to largely depend on how corporations and countries manage it. This has resulted in a growing interest in the study of innovation management. Technology Transitions provides a platform to share actionable knowledge and portray perspectives on this rapidly-developing field.
“Breaking through disciplinary and geographical boundaries”
Elsevier Chairman Youngsuk “YS” Chi, commented on the need for a broader approach to research:
Today’s world is facing complex global challenges that have never been seen before on this scale. Whether it is studying climate change or satisfying growing energy demands, tackling these challenges effectively requires a collaborative effort. For researchers, this means breaking through disciplinary and geographical boundaries to produce the most impactful research. I am very pleased to see that Global Transitions uniquely facilitates such a collaborative approach, connecting the health, energy and technology communities to work together towards a better future for everyone.
The launch of this interdisciplinary open access journal is another milestone for KeAi, Elsevier’s successful joint venture with China Science Publishing & Media. It exemplifies our mission to help institutions and professionals advance healthcare and open science while improving research performance for the benefit of humanity.
Global Transitions provides a home for relevant scientific, technological and medical information, as well as field reports and policy briefs.
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Understanding the terms
Research collaboration: Can take many forms, e.g., industry and academia, international partnerships, or society and researchers (also known as “citizen science”). Collaborations can also be monodisciplinary (i.e., focused on a single discipline), multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary.
Multidisciplinary research: Researchers from various disciplines each draw on their disciplinary knowledge to solve a problem or issue.
Interdisciplinary research: Combining knowledge and methods from different disciplines to reach a shared solution.
More about the Editors-in-Chief of Global Transitions
Kristie L. Ebi, PhD, Health Transitions
Dr. Kristie L Ebi is the Rohm & Haas Endowed Professorship in Public Health Sciences at the University of Washington in the US. Her research focuses on the impacts of and adaptation to climate variability and change, including on extreme events, thermal stress, foodborne safety and security, and vectorborne diseases. She has supported multiple countries in assessing their vulnerability and implementing adaptation measures, in collaboration with WHO, UNDP, USAID and others. She is also co-chair of the International Committee On New Integrated Climate change assessment Scenarios (ICONICS). Dr. Ebi’s scientific training includes an MS in toxicology and a PhD and Masters of Public Health in epidemiology, and two years of postgraduate research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has edited four books on aspects of climate change and has more than 180 publications.
Luisa F. Cabeza, PhD, Energy Transitions
Dr. Luisa F. Cabeza is is a Professor in the Department of Computer and Industrial Engineering at University of Lleida in Spain. She holds a PhD in Industrial Engineering, degrees in Chemical Engineering and Industrial Engineering, and an MBA. Dr. Cabeza joined the University of Lleida in 1999, where she created the research group GREiA and started her research on thermal energy storage (TES). Her interests include the different TES technologies (sensible, latent and thermochemical), applications (buildings, industry, refrigeration, CSP, etc.), and social aspects. Dr. Cabeza is very active in the storage implementing agreement (ECES IA) of the International Energy Agency. She also acts as subject editor of several Elsevier journals. She has co-authored more than 100 journal papers and several book chapters.
Jin Chen, PhD, Technology Transitions
Dr. Jin Chen is a Professor in the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. He holds a degree in chemical process control and a PhD in Management Engineering. He has been a visiting scholar at MIT Sloan School of Management in the US and a visiting fellow at Sussex University in the UK. In 2014, he was honored as a distinguished professor of Chang Jiang scholars, becoming the first Chang Jiang scholar in the field of China’s technological innovation management. Dr. Chen worked as the Executive Vice Dean of the Undergraduate School and the Chu Kechen Honors College before joining Tsinghua. His research and teaching mainly focuses on management of technological innovation. He is vice chairman of the Chinese Association for Science of Science and S&T Policy and holds editor roles with a number of journals.