What does "sustainability" mean? The question is harder than it first appears. It's hard to pin down a precise meaning, and even terrific explorations of the concept end up heavy on the metaphor. Part of the problem is that "sustainability" has different meanings when looked at from a scientific, a design, a social or a policy perspective, and too often those who focus on the particular categories talk past each other, or ignore each other completely.
Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy seeks to change that.
Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy is a new peer-reviewed, open access journal that provides a platform for the dissemination of new practices and for dialogue emerging out of the field of sustainability.
The e-Journal fills a gap in the literature by establishing a forum for cross-disciplinary discussion of empirical and social sciences, practices, and policies related to sustainability.
Sustainability will facilitate communication among scientists, practitioners, and policy makers who are investigating and shaping nature-society interactions and working towards sustainable solutions.
The journal's editorial board is an international, cross-disciplinary collection, and its advisory board includes famed scientist Edward O. Wilson, who contributes the lead editorial for the first issue. Other articles in the new journal include "The role of local ecological knowledge in sustainable urban planning: perspectives from Finland," by Vesa Yli-Pelkonen and Johanna Kohl (Helsinki University of Technology), "Sustainable consumption à la française? Conventional, innovative, and alternative approaches to sustainability and consumption in France," by Samy Sanches (King’s College London), and "The new politics of consumption: promoting sustainability in the American marketplace," by Maurie J. Cohen, Aaron Comrov, and Brian Hoffner (New Jersey Institute of Technology). As should be immediately apparent, this is an academic journal -- readers looking for breezy, casual ecojournalism should look elsewhere -- but that's a good thing: the concept of sustainability needs more academic rigor.
The best thing about Sustainability is that it's an open access journal -- all content is freely available to readers.
This is absolutely needed. All too often in discussions, the term "sustainability" remains too vague and undefined, and this gives "minimalists" a chance to exclude the concept alltogether, or to reduce it to purely "economic" and "utilitarian" notions of it.
More academic rigor is very welcome. And the mere fact that one can now directly refer to this journal ("I quote from Sustainability, volume 7, issue 2...") makes a difference.
This is, indeed, a very welcome development. One word of caution regarding open-access: someone still needs to meet the costs of publication. I should declare a vested interest here - I currently work for a publishing company which still operates on a subscription model, though we provide free access to libraries in some countries.
As long as funding is readily available for a particular subject, then I think open-access will be a very useful model. However, if it is down to individual authors to seek finance for publication, we could end up with a situation where authors from cash-poor countries, or working in poorly funded research areas, are excluded from the publication process. Most open-access publications say they will wave the fee for those unable to pay, but, to my mind, this would logically mean that they will only be able to "carry" a certain number of free contributions - hardly completely inclusive. Of course, subscription fees have traditionally excluded many from reading, and therefore also contributing to the academic debate. However, many companies, ourselves included, now offer free access in some countries (sometimes called "geographical open-access") and are able to avoid charging authors for publication. Theoretically, there are no limits to the number of subscribers we can allow open access to, if they do not take away from paying subscribers, whereas each author fee that is waived means considerable costs which have to be met elsewhere. There is also the question of whether paying for publication will lead to an incentive to publish more, and thereby effect the rigour of the peer-review process.
"Sustainability" states: "Author Fees: $1500 for accepted articles. These fees are currently being waived for authors, and are now paid for through the generous support of the NBII."
If this generous funding continues then it will be clearly advantageous for all to remain open-access, if not, then it could seriously effect the inclusivity of the debate.
This is sincerely not meant as an anti-open access rant, as I think it has huge potential to greatly increase access to scientific research. I'm merely pointing out that neither the subscriptions model, nor the open-access, author pays, models are without their problems. I suspect we will end up with a mixture of models for different journals and subject areas.