In social sciences, expanding research fields inspire new journals

Elsevier works with research communities to launch 15 journals in transport, economics and tourism

A topic’s popularity can rise fast in the world of research, and journal publishers need to move quickly, listen closely, and work with their communities to ensure that the best research finds a home.

Several social science research fields saw significant growth over the last few years. While submissions to Elsevier’s journals increased by about 12 percent from 2011 to 2012, submissions to social science journals rose by 17 percent. An important role of Elsevier’s publishers is to keep pace with this expansion and ensure that their portfolio of journals continues to reflect the research landscape. Chris Pringle [pullquote align="right"]Transport used to be the grubby-handed little orphan. Nowadays you can’t open a newspaper without seeing a major transport story, and that means it’s climbed up research agendas,too.[/pullquote]

The transport sector alone has seen six new launches across 2012 and 2013, reflecting the meteoric rise of the discipline as a research field. Chris Pringle, Executive Publisher for Transport at Elsevier, explained why the area is rapidly growing, and how Elsevier aims to serve a community that’s been propelled to prominence internationally.“Transport used to be the grubby-handed little orphan,” he said. “Nowadays you can’t open a newspaper without seeing a major transport story, and that means it’s climbed up research agendas, too.”

Politicians confronted with problems such as obesity, environmental issues and economic stagnation see transport as having potential solutions. This kind of change generates an increase in research, much of which may fall outside the scope or capacity of existing journals.

Daniela GeorgescuDaniela Georgescu, Executive Publisher for Economics at Elsevier, said changing times make new journal launches essential even when established journals cover the majority of research. The Journal of the Economics of Ageing

“It can be really hard to start a new journal in economics,” Georgescu said, “You have the general economics journals at the top and then the field journals underneath – and between them they cover everything.”

Nonetheless, by listening closely to the community, publishers saw that some emerging trends warranted their own outlets. With The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Georgescu felt they’d found an area that warranted a new launch.

“We were going to conferences, talking to people and looking for new ideas, and aging and economics was a topic that kept coming up,” she said. “It’s a hot topic – the effect that an aging population will have on future employment and so forth.” [note color="#f1f9fc" position="left" width=400 margin=10]

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Elsewhere, the emergence of new professional societies spurred other launches. The establishment of the International Transportation Economics Association reflected growth in research on this topic and pointed to the need for a dedicated field journal, resulting in the creation of Economics of Transportation.

For Pringle, the fact that such societies come to Elsevier for these partnerships reflects years of collaboration in the field that predate the topic’s status as a rising star.

“We’ve consistently given great service to the field,” he explained, “We publish over 60 percent of the papers, and we’re still usually the only publisher at transport conferences,” he said. “We’ve spent 20 years building strong ties with this community, so people come to us with these ideas.”

Also experiencing a surge in research is the tourism sector, with Elsevier launching four new journals in the area. Driven by increasing interest from China and the US, it’s an area where established Elsevier journals already top the Thomson Reuters Impact Factor categories. Nonetheless, it makes sense to offer a wider choice, said Keith de Blanger, Executive Publisher for Tourism at Elsevier.

“When you launch a new journal, you have the chance to build a community around that topic. You get to know what they need, what they expect, and there’s more loyalty as a result,” he said. “Furthermore, niche titles in an area such as tourism help get research into the hands of relevant practitioners, who may not subscribe to broader titles.

Launching a new journal can be a challenging process, but when the research landscape changes, it’s a necessary one in ensuring research reaches the right audience. [divider] Ian Evans

The Author

Ian Evans is Communications Business Partner for Global Internal Communications at Elsevier. He is based in Oxford.

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