ASU experts highlight implications behind publication patterns in sustainability science

Stacks of books with pages openSustainability scientists in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability Osvaldo Sala, Christopher Boone and Billie Turner and Arizona State University student Courtney Currier recently published a journal article, “The sustainability publication gap and its implications,” in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. In this journal article, the researchers demonstrate that there is a significant difference in the publication patterns of sustainability research compared to the publication patterns of well-established disciplines such as biology and physics. In those established disciplines, there is a continuous publication gradient from lower- to higher-impact-factor journals. This, however, isn’t the case for sustainability research, which tends to be published in very high- or low-impact-factor journals and with relatively few in middle-impact-factor journals. The ASU researchers speculate that this gap may reflect the significance and seriousness of sustainability problems and the youth of sustainability as a scientific field. The lack of sustainability publications in middle-impact journals could hinder communication among sustainability scientists and impede the growth of the field. If sustainability develops into a discipline similar to biology or psychology, this could spread out publications along a broader range of impact factors. However, the authors argue that creating core journals in sustainability could encourage the intellectual silos that sustainability attempts to overcome. The full journal article is available on ScienceDirect.