For all but the most pedantic readers, academic journals have plenty of turn-offs. The language is technical. The concepts are intangible. The topics are niche.
But a group of University doctoral fellows wants to change that.
Fellows from the University’s Graham Sustainability Institute have launched an online journal — the Michigan Journal of Sustainability — designed to improve the accessibility of content and foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. With online access and no subscription fees, the publication’s creators hope academic sustainability research will be easier to conduct and understand.
The periodical is aimed at a wide variety of readers, including academics, policymakers, students and concerned citizens — the people most likely to use the science that researchers are uncovering.
“In other words, the MJS puts sustainability science in the hands of those who can use it,” the journal’s website states.
Nicholas Rajkovich, the journal’s editor-in-chief and a Graham Doctoral fellow, said the publication’s format places special emphasis on collecting work from a wide array of academic disciplines.
“Sustainability issues, by nature, are interdisciplinary,” Rajkovich said. “They require input from a lot of different fields to derive solutions. If you’re writing or reading just for your own discipline, you might not have the kind of linkages between fields to look at impacts of (your) projects.”
A new volume of the journal will be published annually with topics relating to three themes: sustainable freshwater systems, livable communities and climate change.
The journal’s first annual issue includes an article on hydraulic fracturing, for example, which involves the study of freshwater systems, urban planning, health sciences and energy.
“There’s a great push towards interdisciplinary research in journals, and sustainability’s needs are especially acute,” Rajkovich said.
The Graham Fellows noticed this unfilled need while they were discussing possible outlets in which they could publish their research. They discovered there weren’t many journals that appealed to the diverse nature of topics in sustainability. So, with the support of the Graham Institute, the fellows decided to develop their own.
“If an environmental nonprofit organization or municipality is grappling with a sustainability challenge, we want them to turn to the Michigan Journal of Sustainability for valuable insights and information,” co-editor Dana Kornberg said in a statement.
This year’s issue includes articles that touch on topics as diverse as sustainability and social justice, Detroit, climate change, green cities and human-wildlife interactions.
Beyond the compatibility of the journal’s focus topics with the study of sustainability, Graham Institute Director Don Scavia lauded the new journal as a significant step in furthering the institute’s core goals.
“The journal they created not only fills a notable gap in academic publishing but also helps to fulfill a primary mission of the Graham Institute — translating knowledge to influence decisions that protect the environment and enhance quality of life for present and future generations,” he said.