Making an Impact: How Can New Journals Influence Positive Change?

By: Saskia Hoving, Mon Sep 12 2022
Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the face of a global climate crisis, scientific research has never been more vital. But these huge societal challenges require multi-disciplined approaches that must be mirrored by the journals publishing research. This first in a series of Game Changer blogs looks at how new journals can make a positive impact.

There are many things to think about when considering whether or not to launch a new journal. For example, is there an emerging field or new communities to serve? Is the particular research field growing? Are there competitor titles? And so on.

While these considerations are all important, in recent years, Nature Portfolio has looked increasingly to where new journals can make a positive societal impact too. This has made the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) central to the decision-making process for launching new journals.

New journal launches focused on societal challenges

In recent years, the SDGs have influenced the launches of Nature Sustainability, Nature Food, Nature Reviews Earth and Environment and Nature Aging (to name just a few). All these journals aim to publish research addressing questions related to multiple SDGs and big societal challenges like climate change.

As multi-disciplinary research will be vital to achieving the SDGs, the journals also aim to create an audience and authorship of researchers from multiple disciplines. We believe this will help to cross-pollinate ideas across different fields of research.

And we know that there is an audience for this type of cross-disciplinary journal. How do we know? The stats. There are lots of different ways we can measure the success of our journals, and we’ll go into more detail with examples below, but in brief, here are just a few of the ways we can measure success:

  • The number of submissions received
  • Numbers of readers – page visits, downloads, etc.
  • Whether the research community is talking about the journal and the research it publishes – for example, through Altmetric scores
  • Whether the research is receiving media coverage
  • Academic citations
  • Journal Impact Factors
  • Policy mentions – i.e. how often a journal or the research it publishes is cited within policy

To get an idea of how our new journals are making an impact, let’s take a look at some specific examples from Nature Sustainability

Cross-disciplinary sustainability research

Nature Sustainability is just one example of our new journal launches. It publishes significant original research from a broad range of natural, social and engineering fields about sustainability.

There is now a much stronger call for integrated knowledge about the Earth, social and technological systems and their interfaces, particularly from outside academia as shown by the SDGs.

To address this, Nature Sustainability covers a huge range of topics related to sustainability including agriculture and food security, biodiversity conservation, the circular economy, cities and urbanisation, climate change, education, health and the environment, land use and land use change, and much more (full details can be found on the journal’s Aims and Scope).

Part of the journal's mission is to facilitate a cross-disciplinary dialogue around sustainability issues and narrow the gap between research and policy-making.

Meeting an unmet need

It’s clear from the numbers that Nature Sustainability has met an unmet need within the research community. In the first year it qualified for an partial Impact Factor (IF) of 12.080. Now with a full IF of 19.346 it is eligible to receive an IF of 27.157.

It’s also clear that the research community and the media are talking about the articles published in the journal. In 2021, Nature Sustainability and its articles received approximately 79,500+ mentions (490 are policy mentions) across various social media platforms and media outlets.

Top articles published in the journal receive an impressive readership, high citation numbers and big Altmetric scores. For example, A good life for all within planetary boundaries currently has 66,000 accesses, 522 citations, and an Altmetric score of 1438.

Impact on policy, researchers and society

Nature Sustainability’s impact on policy-making, in particular, has also been clear to see. In the last 12 months, it’s had 399 ‘policy mentions’. This means that the journal’s articles were mentioned in 399 policy sources that are designed to change or otherwise influence guidelines, policy or practice. These could be government guidelines, reports or white papers; independent policy institute publications; advisory committees on specific topics; research institutes; and international development organisations.

A spatial overview of the global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation’ is just one example of a high-impact article published in Nature Sustainability. This article has been mentioned in 39 policy documents since publication including by the World Bank, the Food and Agricultural Organization for the UN, and Stockholm Environment Institute. The article also has an Altmetric score of 1052 (at time of writing).

Another article, ‘Promises and perils of sand exploitation in Greenland’ not only influenced policy but received an incredible amount of media coverage and had a real impact on the authors’ careers.

Two years after publication, lead author Mette Bendixen reflected on the article’s impact:

"The massive media interviews [including a photo on the front page of the New York Times] were one great outcome of the paper. Another thing was all the follow-up projects and people I got to meet and collaborations I have started… Another very direct outcome of the paper was the fact that just four days after it was published, five of the total seven parties in the Greenland Government decided they wanted an economic assessment of the potential of sand exploitation in Greenland. It was indeed rewarding to see just how open the Greenland Government was to the idea we proposed. The genuine interest from Greenland led to a request for the Danish and Greenlandic Geological Survey (GEUS) to conduct an economic impact assessment, which is underway and scheduled to be published in Fall 2021."

Are there more journal launches in the pipeline?

The short answer to this is yes. From January 2023, two new transformative journals - Nature Mental Health and Nature Water, and a review journal – Nature Reviews Bioengineering – will join the Nature Portfolio, providing a venue for cross-disciplinary research in the natural, applied and social sciences, and an essential resource for researchers in each field.

Further reading 

The Springer Nature librarian portal has an excellent overview of the Nature Portfolio and further details of the new launches. In particular, make sure you visit:

You can also take a look at our blog must-known facts for librarians about the Nature Portfolio.

Saskia H

Author: Saskia Hoving

In the Dordrecht office, Marketing Manager Saskia Hoving produces The Link Newsletter for research communities. Focusing on the evolving role of libraries regarding SDGs, Open Science, and researcher support, she explores academia's intersection with societal progress. With a lifelong passion for sports and recent exploration into "Women’s inclusion in today’s science", Saskia brings dynamic insights to her work.