• Call for Papers: Special Issue on Publishing and Climate Justice

    Call for Papers: Special Issue on Publishing and Climate Justice

    Posted by Janneke Adema on 2024-02-22

Call for Papers: Special Issue on Publishing and Climate Justice

​​Abstract submission deadline: 30 April 2024

Over the last two decades publications, journals, and book series focused on climate research and the environmental humanities, and on topics ranging from the anthropocene to ecocriticism, have seen a surge in popularity in academic publishing. This mirrors the growth in conducted research reflecting on the current climate emergency and responding to policy efforts such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (Das et al. 2021; Jørgensen and Ginn 2020; Haunschild, Bornmann, and Marx 2016; Santos and Bakhshoodeh 2021). Academic publishers have played a crucial role in ensuring trusted climate research reaches the widest possible audiences and can contribute to future policy development. The related importance of open access publishing is increasingly recognised, as rapid distribution of and frictionless access to climate research can be seen as an important contribution to climate justice (Singh 2022).

Yet the above notwithstanding, has the publishing industry as a whole really reflected on its own complicity in the climate emergency and on the long-term sustainability of its knowledge production and distribution practices? What is and has been the role of publishers and other institutions of knowledge production in reproducing the global climate crisis? This also relates to the literature on knowledge production that is critical of academic capitalism and neoliberalism, which tends to foreground issues of justice, equity, and academic labour, but ‘rarely engages directly with climate justice or the value or the exploitation of non-humans’ (Bacevic 2021).

Paper waste and polluting ink, transport emissions from shipping copies of books and journals over the world, are all key examples of unsustainable environmental practices connected to print publishing, where the industry has only started to address the negative environmental impact or footprint of digital publishing and archiving (Baillot 2023). The theme of 2022’s open access week was “Open for Climate Justice”, and we have seen many climate pledges from publishers ‘going green’, commitments to climate action, and/or organisational adoptions of environmental policies, from carbon accounting and reducing carbon or greenhouse gas emissions, to a completely carbon-neutral production system. Yet at the same time we have seen various accusations of greenwashing within the industry–especially by commercial publishers and large publishing conglomerates–with publishers such as Elsevier, Wiley, and Taylor & Francis heavily entangled with fossil fuel companies and hence being seen as responsible for ‘perpetuating and enabling a fossil fuel economy’ (Westevelt 2022; Dahl 2022).

Moving away from organisational pledges, the question is whether climate justice in academic publishing does not demand from us to ask bigger questions about the industry as a whole (and related to that the way knowledge production in academia is set up). Especially also in relation to issues of overproduction in research and publishing, which is directly connected to profit targets in the industry and academia’s reliance on quantitative performance metrics following the adage ‘to publish or perish’. This has led amongst others to calls for slow science (Stengers 2017), digital sobriety (being frugal of one’s use of digital technologies), and less resource-intensive approaches to (digital) text (Baillot 2023). But it might also involve considerations on how corporate consolidation and ongoing competition in academic publishing could be standing in the way of concerted action. What is the role and responsibility of the publishing industry in tackling climate change? Publishing organisations and collectives are signing up for initiatives, pledges, and manifestoes such as the UN SDG Publishers Compact a joint initiative of the UN and the International Publishers Association (IPA), Publishing Declares, or the Climate Change Knowledge Cooperative, and although these kinds of green values and practices are commendable and can reflect an organisation’s commitment to decarbonization, it could be argued that this is not sufficient for a transition to a low-carbon economy if it is not accompanied by a pledge that ‘academic knowledge production becomes detached from the commitment to profit that ensures carbon emissions continue to rise’ (Bacevic 2021).

This special issue invites abstracts for papers of ~6,000-8,000 words reflecting on these issues as well as examples of best (and worst) practices of how publishers (and the industry as a whole) are tackling the current climate and ecological crises, alongside theoretical contributions on publishing’s entanglement with the climate crisis, the Anthropocene, and global capitalism.

Potential topics:

  • The question of knowledge production and its role in the climate crisis

  • The environmental footprint of digital publication and digital archiving

  • Connections and collaborations among the climate movement and the international (open) publishing community

  • Calls for slow science and digital sobriety

  • Greenwashing in the publishing industry

  • The publishing industry’s transition to post-carbon futures 

  • The publishing industry’s extraction, use, and disposing of natural resources 

  • The environmental impact of emerging knowledge production technologies and practices (e.g. "heavy" media types, archival standards, LLMs + generative AI, etc).

  • Knowledge systems, material infrastructures and the Anthropocene

  • Publishing Traditional an Indigenous Knowledge perspectives on climate change

  • Environmental implications of established publishing and research workflows and potential improvements to this

  • Ecocatastrophes and academic publishing

  • Interdisciplinarity and non-traditional formats in the face of the current climate emergency

When submitting an abstract, please also include a note that your abstract is for consideration in the Publishing and Climate Justice special issue. Abstract submissions are due on 30 April 2024 and should be addressed to the special issue editor Janneke Adema via jep.editors@gmail.com. 

Full papers of accepted abstracts will be due by 15 September 2024

Please direct any questions to JEP co-editor Janneke Adema via jep.editors@gmail.com.


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