In honor of Global Goals Week (17-26 September), we’ve launched SDG 13 hub dedicated to global warming mitigation and our better adaptation to changing environment under a rapid climate change. As a part of this initiative, we spoke to several opinion leaders how they address issues directly related to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 through their work as well as their experience in making societal impact beyond their academic circles.
In this interview we hear from Dr Charis M. Galanakis, the Research and Innovation Director of Galanakis Laboratories, Adjunct Professor of King Saud University and Editor-in-Chief of our new open access journal Discover Food.
I work in food and environmental science and technology, innovation and sustainability, industry, and academia. My main activity area is food waste recovery, targeting to extract high added-value compounds from wasted by-products (e.g., grape, meat, coffee, cereals, and olive by-products) in all stages of food production and re-utilize them in the food chain. Other research objectives of my focus include saving food efforts, sustainable food systems, innovations in traditional foods, biobased industries, non-thermal processing, innovations strategies in the food and environmental science, personalized nutrition, non-alcoholic drinks, innovative food analysis, food authentication, and food forensics, food quality and shelf-life, aromatic herbs in foods, and functional food components such as polyphenols, proteins and peptides, carotenoids, glucosinolates, lipids, and dietary fiber.
My work concerns many UN SDGs such as 2 (zero hunger), 3 (good health and well-being), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 14 (life below water), and 15 (life on land), but is more closely related to 12 (responsible consumption and production), e.g., developing and evaluating innovative technologies to tackle food loss and food waste, promoting sustainable practices in food retail, etc.
I have also worked directly to address SDG 13 (climate action) last year. Together with other colleagues and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, we depicted future transitions for the bioeconomy towards sustainable development and a climate-neutral economy. We also developed foresight scenarios for the EU bioeconomy in 2050 and a study revealing bioeconomy opportunities for a green recovery and enhanced system resilience.
My research has shifted to this exact direction, meaning the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the food sector. Over the last year, we have published at least 7 articles discussing the food systems in the new era, the safety of foods, surfaces, food supply chain, and the environment within the pandemic, the active food ingredients and compounds against COVID-19 disease, food resilience, food security and the importance of the bioeconomy during this period as well as technology disruptions and green deal innovations in the food industry within the lockdown and post-lockdown periods.
There are four significant issues that the food supply chain and the food industry should deal with in the pandemic era. First of all, as consumers are looking to boost their immune system by adopting healthier diets, the availability of foods containing bioactive ingredients is becoming critical, as the demand for these products is increasing. Second, food safety is another crucial issue to avoid spreading the virus between producers, retailers, and consumers. Besides, the lockdown of billion people around the world has emerged food security issues. Finally, the sustainability of the food systems is another issue that the sector should address to restrict relevant crises in the future. Following these trends, industry 4.0 applications, ICTs, and blockchain in the food supply chain are the innovations with the highest potential in the new era, together with developments towards the redefining of the way we consume food (e.g., valorization of food processing by-products, food waste and other bioresources, plant-based alternatives of meat and lab-grown meat). It is also vital to exploit social marketing to understand consumers’ perceptions and identify barriers that affect their attitudes.
Research is primarily evaluated, discussed, and communicated through peer-review articles in scientific journals. Of course, there are other means of communication, e.g., via books, teaching, conference presentations, videos, social media, etc. But scientific journals remain the essential tool for research communication as the submitted articles should always include some important elements such as the state-of-the-art and progress upon it, the research methodology, the discussion, and outcomes. Moreover, the articles typically undergo a basic peer-review process in scientific journals.
However, the pandemic has also changed the publishing industry forever. Since there was relatively limited knowledge about SARS-CoV-2, the urgent need for fast-track prevention and treatment strategies led researchers to publish articles in “torrents,”; meaning articles that are openly published very fast as blogs on websites. The disadvantage of this approach is that the developed research should still undergo a review process to impact the field.
The basis of researchers worldwide is increasing exponentially, and at the same time, there is an urgent need for fast, reliable, and open access (OA) research results. The practice of submitting a manuscript to a journal and then waiting for 3, 4, or 7 months belongs to the past. Instead, flexibility and fast and accurate decision-making are the critical aspect of success for new-age researchers.
Publishers have no other option but to adapt to the new era (e.g., by providing OA journals at a reasonable publishing cost) to support researchers communicating their work related to addressing the SDGs and other related trends such as developing green deal innovations. Besides, many publishers are switching their journals to OA or providing this kind of possibility to researchers, whereas EU-funded research should now be published in OA journals.
Springer Nature has a new series of open-access journals (Discover Series), and I am the editor-in-chief of Discover Food. This is a transdisciplinary, open-access journal that provides a leading platform for the rapid dissemination of knowledge and advances included in innovative and high-impact original research articles, case studies, review papers, viewpoints, and short communications covering the research and innovation that is taking place across the food sector. In addition, the journal welcomes basic, methodological, and applied science that focuses on food science and technology, the global impact of the food sector, and nutrition.
Dr Charis M. Galanakis is a multidisciplinary scientist and Highly Cited Researcher (Clarivate Web of Science, 2019) with experience in food and environmental science and technology, innovation and sustainability, industry, and academia. He has defined the new term and discipline of "Food Waste Recovery" and established the most prominent open innovation network worldwide to inspire related professionals to extract high added-value compounds from wasted by-products in all stages of food production and re-utilize them in the food chain. Over the last year, he has been leading efforts on depicting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food sector and environment, publishing relevant scientific articles.