Interview with the Editors of Energy, Sustainability and Society

Energy, Sustainability and Society now has a new Editor-in-Chief; in January 2017, Daniela Thrän succeeded Michael Narodoslawsky. We took this opportunity to talk with the old and new Editor-in-Chief, as well as the journal’s Managing Editor, Dagmar Fiedler. We asked them to look back to the launch of the journal, as well as to give an outlook of their visions for its future. They also told us more about themselves, shared their opinions on open access, and offered some great tips for submissions to the journal.

What is Energy, Sustainability and Society all about?

Energy, Sustainability and SocietyDagmar and Michael: Energy, Sustainability and Society was launched in 2011 as a multidisciplinary, international peer-reviewed journal in the field of novel energies dedicated to promoting and supporting the further development and implementation of sustainable energy systems. This open access journal is published online with SpringerOpen and is indexed in the Web of Science.

The journal covers papers on complex topics dealing with research, development, and implementation of sustainable energy systems, including novel sources, innovative and emerging technologies, infrastructure and their end-use in different regional and urban context. Energy, Sustainability and Society also welcomes articles on the systemic approaches to link information technologies, digitalization, scenario development as well as political and economic frameworks with the implementation strategies on a national and international scale. The journal is the only one addressing the complex interaction between energy, sustainable development, and societal change.

Energy, Sustainability and Society publishes independently peer-reviewed original full-length research papers, review papers, forum articles and book reviews. Of special interest are short communications on innovative approaches. From time to time, the journal includes special topical or conference issues that concentrate on specific areas.

Helmholtzeseia (European Sustainable Energy Innovation Alliance)SpringerOpen, in cooperation with principal investigators from eseia (European Sustainable Energy Innovation Alliance) and Helmholtz, publishes this peer-reviewed journal which has recently been selected for inclusion in the new Thomson Reuters service: “Emerging Sources Citation Index” (ESCI).

What gave you the idea to start the journal in the first place and why did you choose the open access model?

Dagmar Fiedler, Managing Editor, Energy, Sustainability and Society
Dagmar Fiedler

Dagmar: From 1980 to 2009, I was a member of the editorial staff and acted as the Managing Editor of Engineering in Life Sciences, formerly “Acta Biotechnologica,” which was edited at the UFZHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research from the nineties and published by Wiley-VCH. I have learned a lot during this lengthy collaboration. Together with the editor Prof. Wolfgang Babel, the two co-editors and assisted by an international editorial board, I greatly enjoyed editing all these issues. At a DECHEMA conference in 2007, I was fortunate in having an inspiring talk with Dr. Beatrice Menz (from Birkhäuser publishing Ltd., Basel). We discussed the current status and advances in scientific publications and paid particular attention to issues concerning articles for scientific journals. The idea was initially conceived to jointly launch a new journal in the emerging field of energy, sustainability (and society).

In 2010, the time seemed to be ripe for the implementation of these ideas. Springer at that moment had launched a number of journals using the infrastructure of BioMed Central (BMC) to run about 200 open access journals and this set-up helped us enormously. At the same time, the UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research had also started a research program in the field of novel energies, and I was able to provide assistance in organizing the establishment and, last but not least, future editorial work for the aforementioned new SpringerOpen journal along with the publisher, the UFZ, the leading German energy institution as the centre of excellence in this field in Karlsruhe as well as the eseia. This was an exciting and wonderful time of cooperation between Springer, and in particular Monika Bechtold and Paul Roos, the Editor-in-Chief Michael Narodoslawsky, the UFZ, and Frank Messner, the KIT in Karlsruhe and Karl-Friedrich Ziegahn, as well as the eseia and Brigitte Hasewend.

It has been a great opportunity for our journal to associate Michael as a partner and Editor-in-Chief.

Michael, please tell a little bit about yourself and the journals’ strengths?

Michael: My background is in chemical engineering and before my retirement in December 2016 I worked as an associate professor at the Graz University of Technology. Since 1990, my research focus has been sustainable development, and in particular the utilization of bio-resources. This research area almost automatically leads you to the realization that, based upon this concept, sustainability, technological progress, and social development are inseparable and therefore need to be analyzed together in a truly interdisciplinary partnership. For an engineer like me, this required some fundamental re-thinking of the methods applied in my research. Besides learning to understand the basic ideas of sociology, economy and political sciences, working with complex research questions like the implementation of sustainable technologies in strategical regional development plans led me to recognize that integrating non-science stakeholders is a must if we want to find implementable solutions.

On the basis of this achievement, I contributed to the founding of the European Sustainable Energy Innovation Alliance (eseia) in 2009. As a representative of the eseia, I had the opportunity to serve as the editor of Energy, Sustainability and Society from its launch.

What I like most about this journal, besides the very professional operational editing of Dagmar Fiedler and the support of Springer, are two things. First, it is the only journal I know that focuses on the interdisciplinary challenge of changing our energy system fundamentally. This is of crucial importance to give young, dedicated researchers, who think out of their respective disciplinary boxes, a platform. Second, the format of an open access journal is an invaluable asset as it allows not only broad access to researchers but also to non-science actors who are among the real agents for changing the energy system towards more sustainability.

What do you think are the advantages of open access journals?

We think that the core idea of open access is also the basis of its great advantage

Dagmar and Michael: Energy, Sustainability and Society is published online under the SpringerOpen brand.

We think that the core idea of open access is also the basis of its great advantage – all articles are freely available for anyone who wishes to read them:

Therefore, publishing with SpringerOpen has the following particular benefits:

  • Articles are freely available online not only for readers and libraries but also for those who believe that publically funded research should be freely available to all.
  • Articles are published sooner than in non-open access journals
  • Developing countries and small or specialised research institutions and corporations have access to all open access articles.
  • Providing scientists in developing countries with the opportunity to participate in the international research community, as our journal offers discounted or fully waived publication fees for papers from low-income countries.
  • Offering high-quality peer review, production and publishing processes
  • Authors retain the copyright
  • Offering high visibility
  • Providing citation tracking and inclusion in bibliographic databases

What are your visions for the journal’s future?

DanielaEnergy supply systems have become much more complex during the last decade. They shifted from a monovalent energy provision infrastructure to interactive systems with fluctuating renewable sources, virtual power stations and different types of prosumers. Also, their integration into society is manifold, including multi-level decision-making processes, new governance approaches, decentralisation and trans-nationalization in parallel, different acceptance issues etc. etc.

The journal is the first of its kind which addresses this complexity – and provides important statements for the energy transition, ongoing in many countries in the world; following coherent quality standards and professional management.

After five years of experience, I see the journal as an open access peer reviewed journal with increasing impact. To go ahead with this profile and support research on sustainability issues is my vision.

What advice would you give a researcher before submitting to the journal?

First and foremost, the authors have to make a good impression with their title and abstract.

Daniela and Dagmar: Before preparing the paper, we deem it most important for all authors to read the aims and scope as well as the author guidelines of the journal very carefully.

First and foremost, the authors have to make a good impression with their title and abstract.

They should be aware that titles are gateways to the article and as such, they have to give a clear and succinct picture of the article’s content. The title should not be too long, but contain all essential information and reflect the main aim of the research.

Authors should also carefully prepare the abstract of their submission. It should be informative and completely self-explanatory and indicate all significant data. The abstract should contain approx. 350 words and be structured into four separate sections: Background (the context and purpose of the study); Methods; Results (the main findings); Conclusions (brief summary and potential implications). In addition, in accordance with the aim of our journal, sustainability features and/or ecological or social aspects should be incorporated in the first part of the abstract.

I will not list everything here but would specify the most important aspect being scientific progress. Authors should therefore be aware that a manuscript could only be accepted as an Original article if the data of already existing publications are compared with the results of their work, and the scientific progress is clearly pointed out in this paper and should be placed at the end of the introduction in the background part.

Finally, please tell us a little bit about yourself, Daniela.

Daniela Thrän, Editor-in-Chief, Energy, Sustainability and Society
Daniela Thrän

Daniela: My background is environmental engineering, and I have been working in the field of sustainability of material and energy flows for 20 years. With an interdisciplinary research team, my focus is not only on assessment methods to describe the resource basis and estimate the market chances for different technical concepts but also on finding indicators to describe the effects of renewables for certain areas and regions, endangered species as well as people and companies, working in this field. I see the challenge for the ongoing transition in the complexity of the systems, which need a broad approach to research methods, on the one hand, but also dedicated scenarios, models, and tools to provide science-based knowledge for decision making, on the other. This has brought me almost automatically to the area of Energy, Sustainability and Society, the focus of the journal, and to another point, which should not be overlooked, the implementation of scientific findings from the journal into either interdisciplinary programs of the Helmholtz Society or the discussion of recommendations for further research and the transformation of the raw material basis with the BioEconomy Council of the Federal Government, for example.


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