How editors can contribute to sustainable development

Researching our way to a more sustainable future

When the UN established the Sustainable Development Goals at its headquarters in New York last month, it set the agenda for Sustainable Development for the next 15 years.

As an editor, you can collectively draw more attention to sustainability science in a number of ways, including:

  • Collaborating on inviting proposals for Special Issues on the topic of sustainability in individual journals
  • Organizing workshops, symposia and presentations on the topic, backed by key journals, at conferences throughout the year

See below for further examples.

InfographicFrom 30 November to 11 December this year, the international climate negotiations at the Conference of the Parties (COP21) is taking place in Paris, and is looking to establish international agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gasses. 2015 is a pivotal year for sustainable development and the journals you edit will help shape the landscape of sustainability science.

Elsevier makes a positive impact on sustainable development through publishing many journals with sustainability as their focus, such as:

In addition, Atlas showcases research impacting on people’s lives, and challenges such as the Green & Sustainable Chemistry Challenge focuses researchers’ minds on the importance of the topic. Each of these initiatives individually supports sustainable development.  However, Elsevier is taking that support one step further. The UN has called for the scientific community to become not just an observer in these developments, but an advisor to policymakers. In response, Elsevier, partnering with SciDev.Net, has mapped the scientific landscape across a multitude of disciplines to grant those policymakers, as well as funders and researchers, a window onto the state of Sustainability Science. The report ‘Sustainability Science in a Global Landscape’ was launched in New York on 24 September, ahead of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Summit and is part of our on-going effort to support sustainable development.

How can you contribute as an editor to further building the body of knowledge of sustainability science and to further driving the sustainability science agenda?

Talking to researchers in the field, we see an emerging trend of awareness to put science into practice; e.g. partnering with the private sector, collaborating on interdisciplinary programs and further building collaboration between developed and developing countries. Editors could collectively draw more attention to sustainability science by collaborating on inviting proposals for Special Issues on the topic of sustainability in individual journals. Another approach could be in the organization of workshops, symposia and presentations on the topic, backed by key journals, at conferences throughout the year.

Another option might include selecting relevant papers for Editors' Choice articles, listing a selection of sustainability papers in a journal homepage ‘pod’, and writing editorials that draw together work on the topic.

Commissioning short review papers

Participating JournalsA collection of engineering journals at Elsevier are looking at how they can showcase engineering research that will help with sustainable development by commissioning short, state of the art review papers that highlight specific advances in a defined discipline.  The initiative is entitled Engineering Advances and the papers are collected together and presented as a wide range of technologies and solutions that can be applied in other disciplines and sectors.

Partnering with third parties

Partnering with a group that has a wider reach in policy and practice, enables a broader base for the application of research published in a specific journal, and potentially other journals at Elsevier that address similar problems. An example of a partnership with an industry facing society is Tall-Building research. These third parties can often examine the content that has been published and place it in a different context, interpreting it for a different audience.

Virtual Special Issues

Another example of looking at content after it has been published is via a multi-journal, cross-disciplinary Virtual Special Issues (VSI). The Arctic VSI published in 2015 is a great example of this.

Six sustainable development themes

Basing a collection of articles on the six themes of Dignity, People, Prosperity, Planet, Justice, and Partnership, and seeing these as a priority in all other journal activities, would allow editors to highlight the relevance and pressing importance of sustainability science as a research field for us all to explore in more depth.

The six sustainable development themes;

  1. Dignity: to end poverty and fight inequalities
  2. People: to ensure healthy lives, knowledge and the inclusion of women and children
  3. Prosperity: to grow a strong, inclusive and transformative economy
  4. Planet: to protect our ecosystems for all societies and our children
  5. Justice: to promote safe and peaceful societies and strong institutions
  6. Partnership: to catalyse global solidarity for sustainable development

All the examples mentioned show how editors collectively are able to further develop sustainability science as a research field and further stimulate sustainable development.

Author biographies

Coralie Bos

Coralie Bos (@cbos2) holds an MSc in Business Administration, graduating cum laude from Erasmus University Rotterdam.  As a Program Manager for Global Communications at Elsevier, Coralie manages the development, implementation and governance of Elsevier’s Integrated Brand Strategy. She leads the Elsevier Sustainability Initiative, of which the report Sustainability Science in a global landscape is one of the outcomes. As a strong believer of integrating sustainability goals into business objectives, she states: “By deliberately looking at and breaking ingrained patterns, we can take steps to further develop capabilities to create sustainable businesses and prosperity for future generations.”

Joe D'Angelo

Joe d’Angelo is a senior publisher for the Civil Engineering journals at Elsevier, having joined in 2013. He previously held a position working on the journals at Earthscan, one of the leading sustainability publishers. Many of the journals that Joe works on focus on engineering solutions for sustainable change and the challenge of the transition to urban environments. He’s currently looking at ways in which to reach across sectors and disciplines with the work that’s published in the civil engineering journals as he believes that the biggest challenges in engineering and urbanization require investigation and collaboration from all areas of physical and social sciences.

Kay Tancock

Kay Tancock is the Geography, Planning and Development journals Publisher, based in Oxford. She manages a portfolio of 20 academic journals in this disciplinary field.  A geographer herself, she has a deep interest in the subject, and is particularly keen to work with colleagues across Elsevier to develop the sustainability theme in our publications.  Kay studied Geography at Oxford, followed by Town Planning at Newcastle and can be found at conferences throughout the year, where she is always delighted to meet authors, editors, reviewers and researchers to chat about publishing and new trends in the subject.  Outside of work, Kay loves to run, do yoga, travel and cook.

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