By Nicola Jones, Director, Springer Nature SDG Programme
As academic journal publishers and editors, it's not only our duty but also our responsibility to publish research articles that align with current global priorities and issues. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a comprehensive framework for tackling the world's most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges by 2030. By definition, these complex challenges need interdisciplinary approaches. And because of its broad societal relevance, this research also engages policymakers, industry leaders, and other stakeholders; and can give the journals publishing it broader impact and visibility.
That’s the why of publishing more SDG-related research. Perhaps the more difficult question is: How.
That question was the topic of a recent Council of Science Editors (CSE) 2023 conference panel, featuring Nicola Jones of Springer Nature, James Butcher of Clarke & Esposito (a publishing consulting firm), Fiona Miller who is a Professor of Health Policy at the University of Toronto, and Liam Messin of The Lancet Global Health. These panelists — from a range of roles across research — focused in on both ideas journal editors can use, and pitfalls to avoid.
Maybe the most important point is: Keep your journal’s existing audience and scope in mind. Don’t try to shoe-horn in research that doesn’t organically fit what your journal does well. Instead, seek out research relevant to one or more of the SDGs that fits your journal.
Also, keep in mind the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, you should be aware of the volume of research in the SDGs coming from geographic regions beyond Western Europe and North America. So you can — and should — seek out and invite contributors (and reviewers) from these regions, rather than relying on submissions already coming to you.
Some journal editors have had success with special issues and with multi-journal collections. These approaches recruit guest editors to find, solicit, and curate research focused on particular SDGs (or parts thereof) consistent with what your journal already does (see the first point, above). Notably, this suggestion came out of the Q&A session after the main panel, and the panelists engaging with it noted that these approaches can be a great way to send a clear signal about what your journal is interested in; and the multi-journal collaborations provide a way to connect with both the SDGs, and a core disciplinary audience.
And as always, collaboration, leadership, and authenticity are essential to making progress towards a sustainable future.
Panelist Fiona Miller put it really well when she opened the panel. She said that, when it comes to sustainability, it doesn’t matter who leads, because as long as we get there, all benefit. And many of those attending the panel noted afterwards that the panel itself inspired them to more direct action to support the SDGs.
Learn more about everything Springer Nature is doing to lead in and support publishing research in the SDGs.
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