Last month, Cabells was excited and honored to have the opportunity to take part in the EduData Summit (EDS), which took place at the United Nations in New York City. The EDS is the “world’s premium forum for data-driven educators – a platform for strategists, data scientists, CIOs and other dataheads to discuss and share best practices at the intersection of big data, predictive analytics, learning analytics, and education.”

The theme of this year’s Summit was “The Virtuous Circle: Sustainable and inclusive life-long learning through EduData” and sessions focused on areas such as access to education, continued and distance education, innovation in data science and AI, and sustainability.

Cabells CTO Lucas Toutloff was joined by Rachel Martin, Global Sustainability Director at Elsevier, and David Steingard from Saint Joseph’s University’s Haub School of Business for the virtual presentation “Industry-University Collaboration for Impact with the UN SDGs.” The panel discussed the importance of connecting research and science to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) widely, and more specifically, bridging the gap between researchers and practitioners. The SDGs are 17 highly interconnected goals spanning a large set of environmental, social, and economic topics and represent a universal call to action for building a more sustainable planet by 2030.  

Scholarly publishing can steer research and innovation toward the SDGs if we specifically and collectively shift the focus to address these crucial objectives and solutions. Researchers must lead the way by providing solutions for practitioners to put into action. As one of the first U.S. organizations and non-primary publishers globally to be awarded membership to the SDG Publishers Compact, along with having the privilege of being part of the Compact’s Fellows Group, Cabells is fully invested in helping to leverage the power of scholarly publishing to achieve the SDGs.

The SDG Publisher’s Compact core mission is to create practical and actionable recommendations for stakeholders in every corner of academic research – academic publishers, editors and reviewers, researchers and students, academic authors and librarians – for how they can have the SDGs at the forefront of their research agenda so we can collectively bridge the gap between researchers and practice. The goal of the Compact Fellows Group is to encourage all areas of the ecosystem to share in incentivizing researchers to perform work that supports and addresses the SDG and help smooth the transition from research to practice. The Compact has created specific best practices and recommendations for each sector that can be acted upon immediately to drive research into the hands of practitioners. The goal is to incentivize research that is driving innovation to address the SDGs which means we need to have ways to parse through, discover, and measure this research, because “what gets measured gets done.”

A major component in this process is establishing a broad spectrum of reporting and insights to drive incentives and measures of impactful research to gauge how an institution, individual researcher, or journal is performing in terms of SDGs. SDG Publisher’s Compact members have a responsibility to drive research to action and impact and devise ways to measure its effectiveness, reward those who conduct and publish impactful research in impactful journals, and continue to encourage those who don’t.

Toward this end, and in the spirit of SDG 17 “Partnerships for the Goals,” we are working with SJU on a publisher-neutral, AI-driven academic journals rating system assessing scholarly impact on the SDGs, called the SDG Impact Intensity (SDGII) rating. Data, scholarship, and science will be the driving forces for meeting the 2030 goal and as SDG research output is increasing, funders, universities, and commercial and not-for-profit organizations need to know money, time, and research is being well spent and having an impact.

We have discussed (here and here) our commitment to doing our part to advance progress on meeting the SDGs and, ultimately, the 2030 Agenda. Our work with Professor Steingard and his team from SJU in developing the SDGII to help business schools determine the impact their research is having on society by addressing global crises has been some of our most rewarding work. Working within the business school ecosystem, we’re examining how the SDGs can inspire a transformation from quality to impact in business by looking at journals in terms of their alignment and taxonomy connection to the SDGs.

The top 50 business school journals (according to Financial Times in 2016) were examined by the United Nations PRME group and it was discovered that only 2.8% of articles published in ‘top-tier’ journals address challenges such as poverty, climate change, clean energy, water, equality, etc. This is a problem that continues today, many of the same journals are still among the top in business journal rankings and they are not championing and featuring impactful research to any meaningful and impactful degree.

Cabells and SJU are trying to address this problem through the SDGII by shifting the philosophy on what “counts” when looking at business journals and noting which publications are driving impact with respect to the SDGs. We are working to integrate, promote, and ultimately change the benchmarks of what matters in academic output and the data that drives decision-making.

To continue to promote this initiative and encourage the shift from quality to impact, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to discuss our progress at the AACSB’s International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM), in April in New Orleans.

Sustainability is the crisis of our generation, and sustainability‑mindedness has been an important point in academic research. The SDGII is designed to give stakeholders on every level the ability to measure what they’re doing and to serve as a cross‑motivational tool to drive the industry forward on issues of sustainability. As mentioned earlier, when it comes to incentives, what gets measured gets done. The traditional metrics of evaluating the quality of research journals focus mainly on citation intensity which evaluates journals based on how much they are used and cited. While this makes sense on some level, research must be read to have an impact after all, it’s missing the mark by not considering, and measuring, impact on SDGs.

The SDGII is an alternative, complementary metric that will evaluate a journals SDG research and output through artificial intelligence and machine learning and build a profile for the publication to demonstrate its impact on these issues. Rather than throw out the traditional approach of evaluating quality and value of a journal, we are seeking to build on the foundation that good journals have in terms of things like scholarly rigor, audience, citations, and rankings. We want to move the needle to highlight research and journals that address the SDGs and the SDGII will help business schools demonstrate how their research is achieving societal impact and meeting the Global Goals.

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