What are the most useful journals for keeping up with new work across the full spectrum of sustainability sciences?
The great breadth and rapid growth of sustainability science pose substantial challenges for keeping up with journal publications in the field. Indeed, one of the most frequent requests we get from our students and colleagues in sustainability science is for recommendations on which journals they should regularly follow. Any effort to recommend some journals over others is bound to be subjective, to be flawed, and to irritate lots of hard-working editors and reviewers. We therefore offer our list below as what we hope will be the beginning of a conversation among the community of sustainability scholars rather than anything like the last or definitive word in such a conversation. We urge our readers to use the features of this platform to comment on our selection, ideally specifying not only which journals you would add to our list but also which they would drop, and why. Our hope is that the evolving discussion of the most important journals to follow (and, presumably, to publish in) will be of use to the community of sustainability science scholars and the maturing of the field as a whole.
We list below the journals that we have come to follow in seeking to stay abreast of the most important research across the full spectrum of sustainability science. Our selection reflects our own judgements but also our analysis of which journals had published the important works we chose to include in our Guide for Researchers in sustainability science that is available elsewhere on this site. An overview of that analysis is available in the publication Supplemental Materials: Research Programs That Have Shaped Sustainability Science elsewhere on this site. A more detailed account is in the works and will also be posted here.
In compiling our list, we assumed that most scholars monitor Science and Nature as part of staying engaged with research more generally. We therefore did not include these journals on our list. We also assumed that most scholars will develop and follow a list of specialty journals focused on their own specific areas of research. The present list does not attempt to identify the journals appropriate for such specializations, though this is a topic we address in another section of ‘Keeping Up.’ Finally, we assumed that other scholars are like us in having limited bandwidth for monitoring current publications. We therefore have divided our list into fives. The high priority group includes the journals we recommend that researchers follow if they have only enough time to monitor 5 journals. (We estimate that, on average, these 5 journals will together publish about a third of the most influential papers across the full breadth of the field.) The medium priority group includes 5 additional journals we recommend for those prepared to follow 10 journals. (We estimate that, on average, the top 10 journals will together publish about half of the most influential papers across the full breadth of the field.) The lower priority group includes another 5 additional journals we recommend for those prepared to follow a total of 15 journals. (We estimate that, on average, these 15 journals will together publish about a 60% of the most influential papers across the full breadth of the field.) The declining rate of return for adding additional journals is clear with journals 11-15 in our list and gets more extreme as other journals are added. (For the initial version of our Research Guide in sustainability science, we drew on almost a hundred different journals for the 250 or so articles we selected to cover important recent findings in the field.)
High priority for following sustainability science (top 5 journals, alphabetical order)
Annual Review of Environment and Resources
Ecology and Society
Global Environmental Change
PNAS Sustainability Science
Medium priority for following sustainability science (choices 6-10, alphabetical order)
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Journal of Cleaner Production
Lower priority for following sustainability science (choices 11-15, alphabetical order)
Earth System Governance
Environmental Research Letters
Journal of Industrial Ecology
In conclusion, we invite our readers to use the features of this platform to comment on the journal recommendations we have advanced above, ideally specifying not only which journals you would add to our list but also which you would drop, and why. We thank you in advance, on behalf of ourselves and the sustainability science community more broadly, for your contributions.