Sustainability: “The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level” (the sustainability of economic growth) – Oxford LEXICO
Sustainability is a widely used term that has broad implications across all industries, as reflected in the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs focus on safeguarding natural resources and maintaining an ecological balance. Scholarly publishers support these goals but struggle with ways of operationalizing them in the context of embracing a fair and equitable culture serving all their constituents. Despite these challenges, scholarly publishers can play an important contributory role by developing a sustainability strategy.
In the broadest possible sense, sustainability refers to the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level over time. Publishers can position themselves to advantage by ensuring the viability of their publishing business in a rapidly changing and challenging environment. As publishers from all segments—societies and associations, non-profit organizations, and commercial publishers—confront these challenges, they are faced with vulnerabilities that threaten sustainability. Publishers need to “future proof” their businesses by identifying strengths and weaknesses, minimizing risks, and planning for uncertainties. This forward-looking strategy equips publishers to make data-driven decisions that allow them to adapt and have some control over the future.
In a publishing context, sustainability is a concept that should be built into all aspects of the business, at all levels of operations, including supply chains, accessibility standards, and workflows. Following is an overview of areas that come together to form the basis of a sustainability strategy; subsequent postings will elaborate on each of these areas.
Digital Transformation and workflow automation
Emphasis is placed increasingly on the development of digital products and the need for their enhancement in terms of format and availability. Digital products assume even more importance in a world of remote learning and professional development. An interactive format lends itself to reader engagement and creates a more robust educational experience, especially when integrated with a learning management system. Likewise, automated workflows enable more rapid updating of content, and expedited production and delivery.
Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI)
Both internal and external operations should be focused on DEI. Such a commitment is vital to maintaining a talented workforce and editorial integrity. DEI programs should extend to researchers, authors, staff, editors, editorial boards, and peer reviewers. Benefits can be maximized by training and development for long-term adaptation.
Accessibility and Usability
Compliance with accessibility guidelines requires creating a workflow that promotes inclusiveness and conformity with user experience guidelines. It involves inclusive design and usability evaluation, compliance with standards and, if necessary, remediation and future enhancements. Accessibility is becoming an important factor in schools’ and libraries’ content purchasing decisions. It’s no longer just an option.
Discoverability (Scholarly SEO)
You can’t use what you can’t find.
How do you ensure your content is discoverable in an increasingly busy space? Mechanisms to ensure your content gets noticed involve metadata review and enrichment, SEO and mainstream web indexing, and inclusion in library databases and discovery services. Discoverability is key to getting your content in front of readers who benefit from it.
To plan for the future, publishers need to be equipped with data that provides insights and drives business decisions. This data should be integral to all aspects of the business relating to analytics, financial reporting and customer insights, and monitoring usage and user journeys. Monitoring should be undertaken in an environment that respects data privacy.
Awareness of supply chain issues helps publishers deploy tactics that avoid disruption in bringing sustainable products to market. Practises that can make a difference include selective use of third-party vendors, standardization of paper/printing specifications, and sustainable paper and logistics sourcing. Other areas for consideration include distribution channels and use of alternate fulfilment operations, such as print on demand, ultra-short runs, and virtual inventory. To be most effective, digital products must be designed for sustainability from the outset.
Operationalizing Open Science/Open Access
Publishers can benefit from creating an infrastructure to support open science and open access models that serve researchers and publishers. This implies adopting business models that support equitable open access and alternative approaches to making content available, such as transformational agreements. Adherence to emerging funding mandates and open data standards will help ensure the availability of resources for the research community.
Maverick has consolidated its global network of publishing expertise to create a structured sustainability assessment that helps publishers develop a strategic plan. Maverick’s sustainability program is designed to provide publishers with a roadmap for future sustainability, including preparing for change management.
Maverick associates would be pleased to meet and describe the Sustainability program in more detail. To arrange a meeting, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Download Maverick’s Sustainability Program service sheet.
By Rebecca Rinehart
Maverick CEO and Head of US Operations
Rebecca Rinehart is a publishing professional with over 40 years’ experience in all aspects of scientific, technical, and medical publishing. Her extensive industry experience encompasses all aspects of scientific, technical, and medical publishing across books, journals, periodicals, and digital. She is the former publisher of American Psychiatric Publishing, a division of the American Psychiatric Association, and the world’s leading publisher on psychiatry, mental health, and behavioural science. Her other prior experience includes senior level positions overseeing publications at The Endocrine Society, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and Harper & Row Publishers.