Open [Reviews] for Climate Justice

By Shannon Wolfman, inaugural Global Climate Change Fellow, Annual Reviews.

This year’s Open Access Week theme “Open for Climate Justice” is especially relevant for me. My task is to maximize the value of the climate change content published across all 51 of our journals, and this task is deeply entwined with our progress on OA.

Without equitable access to knowledge, we can’t expect equitable solutions to the climate crisis. Without scientists’ voices in the climate change conversation, we can’t expect effective mitigation and adaptation. That’s why the editors of the Annual Review of Environment and Resources have committed the journal to directly addressing climate change, outlined in their open access piece entitled “The Great Intergenerational Robbery” and amplified in this Chicago Tribune op-ed.

Our reviews provide a bird’s eye view of a research topic, outlining what is well-supported and what is controversial, and highlighting major questions that remain. This approach is especially valuable in the complex, cross-disciplinary climate change space. One aspect of my role is to ensure that the climate change work published in all of our journals is integrated and accessible. Another aspect is to link those review articles to the journalist-written coverage of climate change in our free-to-read online science publication Knowable Magazine. We also host public Knowable events and just launched Knowable en Español.  

The year ahead is pivotal for Annual Reviews. After pioneering the open access business model “Subscribe to Open”,  we now plan to convert every 2023 volume of our 51 journals in the life, biomedical, physical, and social sciences to open access. Tearing down paywalls will substantially increase the usage of reviews and will allow interested readers beyond the research community access to expert knowledge on climate change and many other topics. This affirms our nonprofit mission to “synthesize and integrate knowledge for the progress of science and the benefit of society”.

Taking on this new role has been an exciting new avenue for me, and while challenging, the knowledge that I am playing an active part, however small, in the response to climate challenge is energizing and meaningful. I get to work with some of the world’s leading researchers on projects that ensure equitable sharing of our multidisciplinary scientific reviews and that seed broader discussions across science, policy, business, and civil society. OA to scientific knowledge isn’t sufficient for achieving climate justice, but it is necessary.