Publishers ramping up sustainable efforts

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The Research Information inbox has been full of news relating to publishers' efforts regarding sustainable development goals in recent days.

Firsty, IOP Publishing (IOPP) is launching three new, fully open access (OA) journals, extending the  publisher’s Environmental Research series. IOPP’s Environmental Research Series now comprises of six titles that collectively address all major areas of environmental science.

Environmental Research:  Health ( ERH)  and Environmental  Research:  Climate  (ERCL) are both now open for submissions. The third new journal, Environmental Research:  Ecology ( ERE)  will open for submissions later in 2021.

The three new journals reflect the surge in published research that covers one of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and communities and climate action. The growth in this scientific field is expected to accelerate further in the coming years.

The new journals offer a suite of interdisciplinary OA publishing options with rigorous peer review standards based on editorial excellence and a commitment to data transparency. Like the first and most recently launched journal of the series, Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability, research published in the three new titles will be universally accessible, ensuring maximum visibility and reach.

Authors will be encouraged to share data and code where appropriate for the benefit of the research community and authors will have the option to submit their paper for double anonymous and transparent peer review. In addition, IOPP will waive all OA article publication charges for articles that are submitted to the three new launches before 2024. After the initial waiver period for all, authors from low- and middle-income countries who publish in IOPP’s new journals don’t have to pay any article processing costs.

Tim Smith, associate director at IOP Publishing said: The development of our Environmental Research series builds upon the established reputation and publishing values of ERL and enhances the role we want IOPP to have in serving a multidisciplinary field of great importance. Our aim is to deliver a combination of outstanding publishing services and content that brings together academia, industry and policy makers, and ultimately accelerates progress towards delivering sustainable solutions in support of the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals.'

Making an SDG impact

Emerald Publishing has this week been recognised for publishing two of the six journals to receive the highest ‘Five Wheel’ rating from Cabells and S Joseph’s University’s (SJU) first Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Impact Intensity rating. Smart and Sustainable Built Environment and Gender in Management were both highly rated for reflecting research that demonstrates a commitment to the UN’s SDGs. Two of Emerald’s journals received a ‘Four Wheel’ rating, the second highest rating in the study.

The pilot study – the first full ratings are expected in early 2022 – seeks to highlight the differences between business and management journals regarded as leaders in their disciplines, and those who have focused on sustainability related issues. It consists of 100 journals, of which Emerald has five, and these were rated according to their relevance or intensity to the UN’s 17 SDGs, determined by the relative focus they have exhibited in their article publications over the past five years. Using a sophisticated AI methodology from SJU and journals based on Cabells’ Journalytics database, journals were rated from zero to five, with six journals achieving the top rating.

Sally Wilson, director of publishing at Emerald Publishing, commented: 'We have been actively championing and acquiring research aligned to the UN SDGs as part of our commitment to deliver Real Impact. We are delighted that the Emerald team’s focus and commitment to publish research that can help solve real world issues has been recognised in this pilot study and we are looking forward to the full ratings in 2022.'

UK 'a world leader' in SDG research

Meanwhile, new data from Elsevier, published than one month from the UK hosting the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), concludes that the UK is a world leader in sustainable development research.

Elsevier analysed more than 25.6m research papers published between 2012 and 2020, exploring the quantity and quality of research dedicated to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While the UK outperformed many countries across the full suite of SDGs, it fell behind on some of the climate related SDGs – work that will be critical to the world finding lasting solutions to the climate crisis.

Lesley Thompson, director of academic and government strategic alliance at Elsevier, said: 'Ahead of the UK’s moment on the center stage at COP26, it’s encouraging to see the UK’s research community leading the way in sustainable development. Research has a crucial role to play in finding solutions for many societal problems, from climate change to eliminating poverty.

'That said, there is a disconnect between the UK government’s climate priorities and the research volume dedicated to these areas: to be globally competitive the UK needs to consider how it will increase support for research and innovation in affordable and clean energy, and responsible consumption and production, whether that be additional funding, higher prioritisation or a drive to attract new talent in these fields.'

The analysis found that the UK exceeds the average output share of research among world-leading countries related to 11 out of 16 SDGs: No Poverty (1), Good Health and Well-Being (3), Quality Education (4), Gender Equality (5), Decent Work and Economic Growth (8), Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (9), Reduced Inequalities (10), Climate Action (13), Life Below Water (14), Life On Land (15) and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (17).

However, the UK is lagging behind the average of world-leading countries in the volume of research related to several of the SDGs which also align with the UK Government’s agendas focused on the growth of sustainable industries in the UK, including: Affordable and Clean Energy (7), Responsible Consumption and Production (12), Sustainable Cities and Communities (11), Clean Water and Sanitation (6), and Zero Hunger (2).

The quality of the research produced in the UK relating to the UN’s SDGs is world-leading across all 16 areas mapped. This feat was also achieved to a lesser degree by the USA, Italy and Germany. China and India led the way in the volume of research in the fields of clean energy and water.

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