The theme of last month’s AACSB International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM) – a can’t miss event for Cabells every year – was “Pathways to Impact” and thought leaders and educators from the world of business gathered in Chicago to share the pathways their organizations are taking to positively impact society. We were thrilled to be able to continue our annual tradition of attending and lending our support to AACSB and our shared community.
The fact that so much of our work at Cabells revolves around impact made this year’s event as good a fit as ever. We connect researchers to journals that will help maximize the impact of their work. We also fully embrace the importance of harnessing the power of research to positively impact society, in part by moving from ‘quality’ to ‘impact’ when assessing academic publications. Our work with SJU in developing the SDGII as a tool for measuring and reporting faculty impact on the SDGs through published research has been rewarding and continues to evolve. (News on recent exciting developments soon to come.)
The 45th annual Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) meeting, May 31-June 2 in Portland, OR. We’re excited to serve as sponsors of the evening reception at SSP and fortunate enough to be speaking as part of an outstanding panel in a session discussing, “Sustainability, Open Science and Scholarly Communications”
Despite admittedly painting a “sobering picture,” the report stresses that the SDGs can be rescued with concentrated global effort in three crucial areas:
armed conflicts and the senseless loss of lives and resources that accompany them must be ended in favor of diplomacy and peace – preconditions for sustainability
the blueprint laid out by the SDGs must be met with urgency
a global economy that works for all must be created to ensure developing countries are not left behind.
Those are no small tasks and there is no denying that moving the planet forward on the path to sustainability will require coordinated worldwide action. Fortunately, the SDG roadmap is clear and as Liu Zhenmin, former Under-Secretary-General for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs points out in the 2022 Report, “just as the impact of crises is compounded when they are linked, so are solutions.”
We must rise higher to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals – and stay true to our promise of a world of peace, dignity and prosperity on a healthy planet.
António Guterres Secretary-General, United Nations
To help in this effort, researchers, authors, educators, reviewers, and editorial boards are invited to join the SDG Publishers Compact Fellows and the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) in a Sustainable Solutions Summit next month. The virtual event will focus on the top recommended actions and trends to better align academic research, education materials, and the sharing of research findings with making the world a better place through connections to the SDGs.
SDG research output is increasing and it is clear that scholarship and science must be driving forces behind the push for the Global Goals. But to succeed, the gap between researchers and practitioners must be closed. Groups like the SDG Publishers Compact Fellows and HESI, and events like the Sustainable Solutions Summit, will be key to leveraging the power of scholarly publishing to help solve the SDGs.
Last month, Cabells was lucky enough to attend two of our favorite conferences – the Charleston Library Conference, appropriately held in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina, and GBSN Beyond, the annual conference of the Global Business School Network (GBSN), this year held in The Netherlands. We were excited to attend the events not just due to the amazing locations, or to once again be together with the scholarly community (something we have sorely missed), but also for the chance to spread the word on a project we are passionate about – helping publishers, researchers, educators, and practitioners work together to achieve the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Our first stop was the Charleston Library Conference, where our project manager, Clarice Martel, took part in an outstanding panel to present, “Sustainability, Open Science, and Scholarly Communications.” The session discussed ways that the scientific community, publishers, and librarians can drive change and wider societal outreach through open science policies and by embracing SDGs as a key topic in research impact, mission, and practice. Clarice was joined on the panel by Robin Kear, Liaison Librarian at the University of Pittsburgh, Lucy Frisch, Director of Content Marketing Strategy at Springer Nature, and Laura Helmuth, who is the editor in chief of Scientific American.
Having a panel comprised of knowledgeable and passionate stakeholders from all corners of scholarly communication was key in creating a comprehensive and action-inspiring session. Themes that ran through each part of the presentation were the vital importance of advocating for open access (OA) research, further development of OA-focused resources and related initiatives, and the importance of supporting education and action plans around SDGs and other sustainability-focused science.
Clarice highlighted Cabells work with the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI), an open partnership between several UN entities and the higher education community. HESI aims to create an interface between higher education, science, and policy-making by supporting sustainable development, convening multi-stakeholder discussions and action, and sharing best practices. Stressing the importance of establishing and adhering to best practices and driving action around SDGs, Clarice also discussed our work as part of the SDG Publishers Compact Fellows group, focusing on action tips to put research into practice.
A few days later, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Dr. Julia Neufeind, journal metric scientist at Cabells, joined forces with Dr. Steingard to present, “Measuring the Relevance of Academic Research in Terms of the SDGs” at GBSN Beyond. The session touched on several crucial issues in need of attention and action, such as the paucity of articles published (only 2.8% as of December 2021) in ‘top-tier’ journals that address SDGs and related research, and the need to transform from ‘quality’ to ‘impact’ when assessing academic publications.
We are committed to further developing the SDGII and will continue our efforts to encourage all areas of science to share in incentivizing researchers to perform work that addresses the SDGs, and to highlight journals that recognize and prioritize these global challenges.
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 in June. 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.”
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 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. Cabells, 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, is fully invested in helping to leverage the power of scholarly publishing to achieve the SDGs.
The SDG Publisher’s Compact and Fellows Group
The SDG Publisher’s Compact’s core mission is to create practical and actionable recommendations for stakeholders in every corner of academic research – publishers, editors and reviewers, researchers and students, 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 Fellows Group 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.
The SDG Impact Intensity Journal Rating
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 IntensityTM (SDGII) journal 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.
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.
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.
If you plan on attending the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s (SSP) 44th Annual Meeting next month in Chicago, be sure to make time to attend Session 4F, “Open Science and SDGs: Harnessing Open Science to Address Global Issues.” Lucas Toutloff, CTO at Cabells, will be part of an outstanding panel that will be discussing ways the scientific community and journalism can drive change and wider societal outreach through open science policies and by embracing SDGs as a key topic in research impact.
We’ve also been thrilled at the growth of and excitement for the SDG Impact Intensity™ (SDGII) academic journal rating, the first system for evaluating how journals contribute to positively impacting the SDGs. The SDGII is the result of our collaboration with Dr. David Steingard, Director of the SDG Dashboard initiative and Associate Professor of Leadership, Ethics, & Organizational Sustainability at the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University, and his team of researchers.
The SDGII uses SJU’s AI-based methodology to look at article output in journals from Cabells’ Journalytics database and gives those journals a ranking determined by the relative focus they have exhibited in their article publications over the last five years with respect to the SDGs. The SDGII provides a rating of up to five ‘SDG wheels’ to summarize the SDG relevance of articles published over a five-year period (2016-2020).
At PRME, we discussed how impact-focused metrics can support progressive publication and business education agendas and unveiled a new iteration of the metric – the SDGII 3000, which provides a rating to measure the SDG-intensity of 3000 academic business journals, as well as the net impact of a business school’s faculty on publications advancing the SDGs. The SDGII 3000 will analyze 95%+ of all relevant business school and SDG-related journals where faculty publish and represents a massive expansion of the measurement of the social and environmental impact of publications through the SDGs.
We look forward to continuing this discussion in Chicago at the SSP conference, both during our session and beyond. We will discuss the ways that open science is impacting SDG initiatives and programs and explore methods for operationalizing SDG-mindedness as a tool for measuring both research impact and potential. The momentum is building for this game-changing initiative and we hope to see continued interest and excitement from all corners of academia.
Conference season is upon us and all of us at Cabells are excited to get back to in-person events to safely reconnect with old friends and establish ties with new ones. Like everyone else in the world, academe has had to adapt, pivot, and evolve to a new way of life, one largely designed to limit human interaction. Maybe that’s why it seems like there is a bit more excitement surrounding conferences this year, the anticipation of being back together with our community and all the ideas, learning, teaching, and growing that in-person events foster.
Cabells is hitting the ground running and we will be at the upcoming Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) North American Biennial Meeting April 21-23 in Arlington, Virginia. PRME is a United Nations-supported initiative founded in 2007 as a platform to raise the profile of sustainability in management and business schools around the world. Their mission to transform management education and shape the skills and mindset of future business leaders to advance sustainable development and create collective impact dovetails perfectly with Cabells’ values and goals.
Speaking of fitting perfectly with our mission, we are also very excited to be returning to AACSB’sICAM 2022 in New Orleans, April 24-26. We will have a large contingent at ICAM this year, find us at booth 219 or in one of the conference’s insightful sessions to say hello and learn what we have been up to since we last met.
At both PRME and ICAM we are looking forward to discussing our work in collaboration with David Steingard and Saint Joseph’s University (previously discussed here and here) in examining how the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can inspire a transformation from “quality” to “impact” in academic publications. We’ve looked at opportunities that help and obstacles that hinder work on making this shift happen, and hope to offer solutions that help accelerate progress.
Our work in helping to develop the SDG Impact Intensity™ (SDGII) journal rating, which measures business and management journals on their focus and impact on sustainability and related issues has been challenging and rewarding. We’re looking forward to sharing our work and the progress we’ve made in helping shift the paradigm on what counts as impact in academic and business research.
We hope to see you in Arlington or New Orleans, travel safely!
The 17 integrated UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Research and higher education will play vital roles in society’s march toward achieving the SDGs by the end of the decade and in building a sustainable future by providing current and future stakeholders with the knowledge, skills, and ethos to make informed and effective decisions to this end.
The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) is a partnership that gathers over two dozen UN agency members and Higher Education Sustainability Networks. The Initiative tackles the most crucial challenges of our time by redesigning higher education to provide leadership on education for sustainable development, spearheading efforts to ‘green’ campuses, and supporting sustainable efforts in communities, while also ensuring the quality of education, equity, and gender equality.
Initiated in 2012 leading up to the Rio+20 conference, and bolstered with support of the United Nations, HESI provides higher education institutions with a vibrant confluence of higher education, science, and policymaking by enhancing awareness of higher education’s role in supporting sustainable development, facilitating multi-stakeholder discussions and action, and sharing best practices. The Initiative emphasizes the crucial role that higher education plays in educating the current and next generation of leaders, propelling the research agenda for public and private sectors, and helping to shape the path of national economies.
One of the overall goals of Cabells is to optimize decision making for both researchers and institutions. The SDGs are becoming increasingly important to these groups, and we strive to support them in enhancing the impact of the work they’re doing. One way we’ve been able to do this is through our collaboration with Saint Joseph’s University and Dr. David Steingard, developers of the SDG Dashboard at Saint Joseph’s University, to create a new metric called the SDG Impact Intensity™ (SDGII) journal rating. The SDGII seeks to contextualize and understand the relevance of academic research in terms of the SDGs. Climate change, sustainability, and equity are among the most powerful forces for change in society, and yet they are ignored by traditional citation-based metrics.
The SDG Impact Intensity uses a sophisticated AI methodology from SJU to look at article output in journals from Cabells’ Journalytics database and gives those journals a ranking determined by the relative focus they have exhibited in their article publications over the last five years with respect to the SDGs. The SDGII provides a rating of up to five ‘SDG wheels’ to summarize the SDG relevance of articles published over a five-year period (2016-2020).
As previously discussed in The Source, the SDGII show that journals well-known for perceived academic quality in business and management performed badly when assessed for SDG relevance, while journals focused on sustainability issues performed much better.
We believe our work with SJU and Dr. Steingard will be a key collaboration within the industry and its work on the SDGs, and we’ve joined the SDG Publishers Compact (Cabells was proud to be named the Compact’s member of the month for December 2021) to help further this partnership and the pursuit of the SDGs. In the coming months, Cabells and Dr. Steingard will be on hand at the upcoming PRME, AACSB, and SSP annual meetings to discuss a new iteration of the metric and lead discussions on how impact-focused metrics can support a progressive publication agenda. Greater than a change in perspective, there is an ongoing paradigm shift occurring as the value of journals moves past ideas of quality based largely on citations, reputation lists, and prestige, to impact and mission-driven research outputs.
As a New Year year begins, Cabells would first like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, and kick 2022 off with some reflections on what could be the hottest trend in scholarly communications this year: the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Simon Linacre shares an update on this fast-moving area and surveys the runners and riders in a new digital arms race.
In 2012, the New York Times famously declared that year was the ‘Year of the MOOC’. Remember them? These ‘massive online open courses’ were going to disrupt higher education forever and lay waste to inefficient university programs. The truth was rather more mundane – while they proved a boon for lifelong learners and some who couldn’t afford college, and the lasting value was probably enabling a much better response from universities to the COVID-19 pandemic than previously envisaged as the whole world moved online for a few months.
So, it is not without trepidation that a decade later we are calling 2022 the Year of the SDGs. Like the MOOC, this acronym may be surpassed by events and a general withering lack of interest from the general public. However, there is some evidence to suggest that this could be the breakthrough year for SDGs and scholarly communications. Firstly, there are the goals themselves – the 17 aims are timebound to be achieved by 2030, and as every year goes by the urgency grows. This was reflected in the pledges made at COP26 in Glasgow in November, as wells as sustained coverage by global media linking freak weather events and policy decision-making to overarching sustainability imperatives.
Secondly, interest in the SDGs by publishers is undoubtedly growing. In addition to the numerous projects and initiatives by publishers linked to SDG themes, there are now 165 members of the SDG Publishers Compact committing to the promotion of the SDGs in their activities as well as a measure of internal adoption. For our part, Cabells was the Compact’s member of the month for December 2021 – here is a video explaining why we chose to join the initiative:
Thirdly, not only are publishers becoming more involved in the SDGs, but so is the content they publish. Just in the last few weeks, two major papers have been made public regarding the SDGs and the extent to which articles relate to them. Understanding these links is becoming more and more valuable – funders, universities, research offices, practitioners, and policymakers all want to understand what content is engaging with the SDGs to optimize decision-making to maximize the impact of research being funded and conducted. As with citations, what comes with this is not just the value of that impact but being able to count it as well.
But are these quantitative approaches valid? As with the numerous criticisms of using citations as proxies for quality, there will be similar difficulties in equating simple mentions of the SDGs in articles to actual engagement and real-world impact. This and other concerns are methodically highlighted in a paper posted in the arXiv repository by industry expert Philip Purnell in his paper ‘A comparison of different methods of identifying publications related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Case Study of SDG 13 – Climate Action’ (Purnell n.d.). The paper looks at four major new approaches to wholesale rendering of SDG engagement across large swathes of article content, and in so doing identifies that no one service can encapsulate such engagement, and there is relatively little overlap between them either.
Just because 2022 is set to be the ‘Year of the SDGs’ for the scholarly communications industry, that doesn’t mean it has a clear path forward. There is a range of competing interests and systems at play which could go in any one direction. However, visit any publishing conference this year – real or virtual – and the SDGs and how to interact with them will undoubtedly by one of the main topics of conversation. And when we remember what the SDGs are actually for, this isn’t a bad thing at all.
With 2022 promising to be either ‘back to normal,’ the ‘new normal,’ or ‘near normal,’ what does ‘normal’ actually look like in scholarly communications? Simon Linacre reports from two recent business school conferences on what to expect – and what should happen – in the next 12 months.
It first hit me when I sat down on the train to London for my first conference in nearly two years. The train was on time, but there were no seat reservations operational; some people were wearing masks (as advised in the UK), but some people weren’t (it’s not now mandatory); a lot of people were attending the event, but the interesting people I wanted to meet were dialing in for their talks.
Welcome to the new normal for scholarly communications.
Comparing events now to events in 2019 is a little like comparing Christmas or other festivals to 10 or 20 years ago. They feel different and should be better, but we can’t help feeling wistful for when things seemed a little simpler. Following my experience in the last week, academic conferences will be enhanced in terms of who they can get to speak at them and the variety of talks and activities, but they may be a little less satisfying as people dial in with the inevitable technical problems, and in-person meetings are diluted by absences.
The fact that such events are impacted in this way is actually a good thing, as in part it shows a willingness for academics to bite the bullet and stay away from events due to a need to cut their carbon emissions. This topic was very much present in the two conferences I have recently attended, but in slightly different ways. At the Chartered Association of Business Schools (Chartered ABS) event in London, the issue of sustainability was prominent, with a keynote panel discussion and breakout session dedicated to the topic and how business schools should respond. Among the hand-wringing, however, there was little in the way of answers. A key point was made by one business school representative who said to help meet emissions targets the school needed to half its carbon footprint, but the school’s strategic plan was to double the number of students. With student travel responsible for almost half the school’s footprint, it was difficult to see how it could meet both growth and emissions targets.
The second event was the Global Business School Network’s GBSN Beyond annual event which had decided to remain an online event due to its international audience and Covid issues. Sustainability was also a key element in the event’s agenda, with talks on issues such as community impact and corporate human rights, all supported by a virtual reality-inspired online hub for delegates (see below).
It was at this event two years ago that the collaboration between Saint Joseph’s University and Cabells began that has resulted in the development of the SDG Impact Intensity rating. I was really pleased to share an update on the project at the conference it started at this year, along with ideas for future development, but sad I couldn’t meet people in person. However, I was also glad I wasn’t burning up resources unnecessarily just to propel me somewhere I didn’t need to be. Maybe the new normal should be ‘new normals’, as whatever we do now there are multiple, often contradictory, emotions and feelings in play.
What should a good quality journal include in its make-up – rigorous research, well-regarded editorial board, plenty of citations? But what if we challenge these assumptions and demand commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as well? There are solutions to this challenge, and here Simon Linacre introduces the first SDG Impact Intensity™ rating from Cabells and Saint Joseph’s University.
It is said that some of the best deals are done in a secluded restaurant or in the back of a cab. For academics, perhaps the equivalent is the fringes of a conference gala dinner and in a coach back to the hotel. That’s what happened when I met Dr. David Steingard from Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) in Lisbon in late 2019, where we discussed what an appraisal of journals from the perspective of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) might look like.
First trialed in March of this year, the fruits of this meeting are released today in the shape of the SDG Impact Intensity™ journal rating. This pilot study – the first full ratings are expected in early 2022 – seeks to highlight the differences between business and management journals regarded as leaders in their disciplines, and those which have focused on sustainability and related issues. The pilot consists of 100 journals rated according to their relevance – or intensity – to the UN’s 17 SDGs, determined by the relative focus they have exhibited in their article publications over the last five years. Using a sophisticated AI methodology from SJU and journals based on Cabells’ Journalytics database, journals were rated from zero to five, with six journals achieving the top rating.
Traditionally, citations and rankings have been a proxy for quality, none more so than the list of 50 journals used by the Financial Times for its FT Research rankings. However, to what extent have these journals started to reflect on research on climate change and the SDGs in recent years – a focus which should surely be a top priority for business and business schools alike?
The evidence from the SDG Impact Intensity™ journal rating is that… there has been very little focus at all. As you can see from the list of 100 journals, only two journals from the FT 50 appear in the top 50 of the list, showcasing the fact – as if there was any doubt – that sustainability journals that have typically lagged behind top business journals in terms of citations and prestige far outperform them when it comes to engagement with the SDGs and the research agenda they represent. We will view with interest the FT’s plan for a “slow hackathon” this Autumn as part of a review of their journal list.
Cabells started to investigate this area to see if there was another way to assess what value journals represented to authors looking to publish their work. What the last two years have shown is that more than a shift in perspective, there is a paradigm shift waiting to happen as the value of journals to authors moves from old-fashioned prestige to a more dynamic representation of mission-driven research. While Cabells and some publishers have backed this general shift by signing up to initiatives such as the UN Publishers Compact, much more can be done to progress the impact agenda in scholarly communications. Events such as the upcoming Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) Webinar aim to tackle the problem of aligning research programs and outcomes in publications head on. By highlighting those journals that are already focused on this alignment – and those that could do better – Cabells and SJU are hoping they can play a part in genuinely moving the dial.