The SDG Publishers Compact, launched by the International Publishers Association and the United Nations back in 2020, has continued to gather momentum for the wider publishing sector. In practice, the compact requires aligning our daily practices, our content, and measures of success to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One sector accelerating progress has been academic publishing.

Arguably, research and education are core elements needed for society to make progress towards achieving the SDGs by the deadline of 2030. Academic publishers were among the first to sign up to the Compact, joining over 150 organizations committed to the SDGs, including academic publishing industry associations such as STM and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers. In this blog post we explore several new projects making the SDGs a driving force towards a sustainable future for everyone.


The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (HESI) SDG Publisher Compact Fellows 

Created in 2012, HESI is a joint initiative from multiple United Nations agencies and higher education.  In support of the Compact , sixteen representatives from across the academic publishing sector ( including publishers, librarians, academics)  volunteered to become SDG Publishers Compact Fellows. The Fellows have established various working groups to create useful tools and important outcomes for the academic international community. These groups are working on 4 key topics;


  • Integration of SDG Educational Materials: The Academic Societies and Textbooks group are  developing ways for publishers to recognize and address the lack of SDG-related content in their educational materials. This includes presentation materials for conferences and other relevant stakeholder meetings to build awareness around the SDGs. Furthermore, the Fellows are addressing the complex question of what will make an educational resource an SDG The expected outcome is instructors, traditional-aged students, and lifelong learners to feel empowered with quality knowledge and resources around the SDGs so they know how to contribute to a sustainable future.


  • Putting SDGs into practice: The Connecting Academic Researchers and Practitioners group is focused on developing best practices that will foster communication and build stronger relationships between research and those who use research – the practitioners (such as Businesses). The group is working on  encouraging authors, editors, and publishers to create synopsized content and alternate formats that are useful and appealing to practitioners. They are also in the process of creating a “Top 10” tips to encourage integration of SDGs into daily practice and to stimulate research based on the challenges and opportunities practitioners face.


  • Redefining impact: The Impact and Reach group is focused on changing the traditional ways research impact is viewed, specifically looking at academic rankings and incentives.  Multiple “Top 10” tips for publishers, editors, authors, librarians and graduate students are being completed. The group is preparing a resource to highlight seminal SDG research articles and their impact on policy, education, society and beyond. In addition, to ease the identification, collection, and labelling of SDG-aligned content (that can help with rankings), the group is considering development of a standardized SDG taxonomy to be used by researchers, publishers and policymakers alike.
  • Changing the culture in Higher Education: A final, broad-focused sub-group on Changing Culture is taking steps to affect culture change throughout the academic and publishing ecosystem. This group is evaluating the various stakeholders and what their needs are to move the focus toward the SDGs. While initial focus will be on connecting with and elevating those already doing the work with SDGs, eventually the group will transition to highlighting additional institutions and the spaces where they could immediately incorporate the SDGs.


STM SDG Academic Publishers Forum 

The STM Association supports over 140 publishers from 20 countries in their mission to advance trusted research worldwide. STM signed up to the SDG Publishers Compact earlier this year and will convene a new SDG Publishers Forum in the new year. The idea is to create a place to gather like minded publishers to discuss and take action on industry wide SDG related initiatives. It provides the ideal place to discuss the output, best practices and top 10 tips from the HESI group and others as the wider sector steps up to the challenges and opportunities that the SDGs present for research and education.


Partnerships for the goals 

The 17 SDGs are broad and ambitious. Each goal is interlinked, requiring progress to be made across several goals at the same time. It is why the last goal, SDG 17, is dedicated towards partnerships. The academic sector has recognized that partnerships, projects and initiatives from all parts of academia are needed. The HESI SDG fellows, members of the STM SDG forum and academic publishers signed up to the Compact provide a great blueprint of how working together can create this important movement that is redefining research and education with SDGs in mind.


If you are an academic publisher and would like to get involved please sign up to the SDG Publishers Compact and start taking action.