Celebrating Editorial Impact: BDJ Cover Art Raises SDG Awareness

The Source
By: Stephen Hancocks, Fri Jun 28 2024
Stephen Hancocks

Author: Stephen Hancocks

Springer Nature celebrates and recognises our editors and teams for their achievements in editorial board development, journal growth, increasing diversity, and more. In this blog series, based on inspirational contributions from the 2023 Celebrating Editorial Impact event, editors-in-chief from across Springer Nature share exciting and innovative initiatives they are pursuing, the journey to implementing them, and the impact these have had on their journals and communities. 

In today’s post, Stephen Hancocks, OBE, Editor-In-Chief, British Dental Journal (BDJ), shares the story of the BDJ’s 235th volume and its special series of covers to promote the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The volume’s resonant cover illustrations, along with insightful editorials, served to raise awareness of sustainable dentistry practices.

The British Dental Journal celebrated its 150th birthday in 2022, making it one of the oldest established dental journals in the world. Despite this long history and a continually growing international readership and reach, we nevertheless look for ways to keep up with the times, and broaden our outlook beyond the small (albeit important!) part of the body we focus on.

For some years, the journal has been featuring content and advocating on matters of green dentistry and sustainable dental practice. Our Eco Focus Issue from 2022 is a prime example, featuring contributions on the environmental aspects of fluoride programmes, tips to making a dental practice more environmentally sustainable, and more. We consider it important and pertinent to showcase meaningful, actionable changes that dental teams can make to reduce their environmental footprint, but also to explore the broader context in which we and our patients exist. To that end, we took action to align these changes with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

Using journal covers to raise awareness of the SDGs 

Looking to create more sustainability awareness, the journal’s editorial team, led by Heather Bradbury, decided to focus on the SDGs. Set by the United Nations in 2015, these 17 Goals call for action on urgent social, economic, and environmental challenges by 2030. These encompass a broad range of issues, including poverty, hunger, health, education, consumption, climate, and more. As they are inherently interconnected by their very nature, only by addressing them all can we truly achieve a sustainable, inclusive future, leaving no one behind.

To raise awareness of the SDGs through our journal, we decided to couple resonating and evocative cover artwork with relevant editorial content on a specific SDG in each of the 12 covers of a journal volume. The result is as effective as it is unique.

Showcasing dentistry in a broader sustainable perspective, the campaign explored ways in which the SDGs could impact dental practice and future thinking, and how the dental profession, patients, and public can engage with the SDGs.

Visual storytelling and editorial commentary: An innovative approach to SDGs awareness

Because we only have 12 covers in a volume, we had to select 12 out of the total 17 SDGs. We chose those that felt the most appropriate and relevant for this purpose, but this does not mean they are the most important overall.

Volume 235 of the British Dental Journal (running from July to December 2023) featured the 12 selected SDGs for the cover series:

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SDG 1: No Poverty

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing

SDG 4: Quality Education

SDG 5: Gender Equality

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

The cover artwork was commissioned from Kate Miller, whose captivating illustrations encourage viewer engagement and have a striking narrative quality. For each cover, the artwork illustrates the featured SDG and its pertinence to dental practice.

In each issue, a commissioned SDG Column was dedicated to the relevant SDG of the issue, appearing in the Journal’s News section. These supporting editorial content pieces explored dentistry aspects relating to the issue’s chosen SDG, such as the importance of representation to achieving gender equity (SDG 5); Training, remuneration, and working environments of dental teams (SDG 8); The role of mobile dental units in providing care to vulnerable communities (SDG 11); and more.

An overwhelmingly positive response 

We’ve received overwhelmingly positive reactions to the cover series and related content. Readers expressed their appreciation of both the reasons for, and the impact of, highlighting the SDGs.

The positive impact included letters to the editors commending the cover series and accompanying editorials, as well as offers from readers to write their own contributions to the SDG Column.

The many pieces on sustainability that have been published by the BDJ are featured in the journal’s Sustainable Dentistry Collection, and the collection also includes the SDG cover series contributions. Having this content collated in a dedicated location makes it a valuable resource for the dental community.

The cover series was an exciting and innovative awareness-raising campaign, proving there is interest for this kind of focus in our field. We will continue to feature content on sustainability as it relates to the world of dentistry, using the cover series as a foundation for future efforts.

Want to find out more about initiatives that make journals more accessible, impactful, and inclusive? Check out the 2023 Celebrating Editorial Impact event, which showcased contributions from Springer Nature editors-in-chief about exciting strategies and projects like the British Dental Journal’s SDG cover series. 

If you’re interested in exploring more of the SDGs, Springer Nature’s SDG Programme has dedicated hubs for each of the SDGs, with publications, insights, and findings.

Stephen Hancocks

Author: Stephen Hancocks

Stephen Hancocks, OBE, has been Editor-in-Chief of the BDJ since 2004. He is a dentist, writer, editor, publisher, and performer and also owns his own publishing business at stephenhancocks.com. He was appointed OBE in 1997 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for services to the dental profession and subsequently has been awarded Honorary Membership of the British Dental Association, the American Dental Association, and a place in the prestigious FDI’s List of Honour. He has an MA from the Central School of Speech and Drama, London in Advanced Theatre Practice and is also well-known for chairing, lecturing, and after-dinner speaking as well as starting a series on YouTube entitled Let's Go Gardening.