ASU Experts Highlight Implications behind Publication Patterns in Sustainability Science

Scientific articles and journals represent a knowledge network, and the distribution of articles among journals with different impact factors highlight the structure of the network. Sustainability scientists Osvaldo Sala, Christopher Boone, Billie Turner and student Courtney Currier discuss possible driving factors and consequences of publication patterns in sustainability science in their recent paper published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. They found a large gap in the publication pattern of sustainability with research published in either high or low impact factor journals, but not middle-range impact factor outlets. This distribution stands in contrast to older established disciplines, such as biology, chemistry, or psychology, which maintain a continuous gradient across low to high impact factor journals. The bi-modal publication pattern of sustainability reflects both the significance of the topics addressed by sustainability researchers and the youthful stage of sustainability as a scientific field. The sustainability publication gap may hamper communication among sustainability scientists and delay the consolidation of the field. Simultaneously, it may assist sustainability from becoming a research silo, nurturing and strengthening the integrative character of its research.