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Open Access Week 2022: Open for Climate Justice

Emma Archer, Editor-in-Chief, PLOS Climate and Jamie Males, Executive Editor, PLOS Climate

As we celebrate Open Access Week 2022, we are delighted that this year’s theme highlights the importance of openness and transparency in achieving climate justice. It is clear that climate change is disproportionately impacting the lives and livelihoods of women, of racial minorities, of poorer, younger, and older people, and of other vulnerable groups, including those who tend to be marginalised in planning and decision-making. Countries with lesser contributions to cumulative greenhouse gas emissions are shouldering the social, economic and ecological burden of rising temperatures and sea levels to a far greater extent than those in the Global North that industrialised earlier and hold the vast majority of the historical responsibility for emissions. If the key considerations of equity and justice are not taken into account, even actions taken to mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change can perpetuate power imbalances and entrench socioeconomic inequalities.

A key aspect of PLOS Climate’s mission is to leverage the power of Open Access and Open Science to support researchers, decision-makers and practitioners across the world to take effective, evidence-based climate action. Fostering a culture of openness in research and publishing can contribute to procedural justice by involving potential beneficiaries in the design of research, as well as to distributive justice by more equitably sharing resources and opportunities.

Free and fair knowledge sharing- in all its forms- is essential to delivering climate justice. “All scholars are building on the works of others,” explains our PLOS Climate Academic Editor A.R. Siders. “We want our work to inspire further innovation and exploration. Paywalls limit our fields and impoverish us all.  Embargoes and other delays are untenable in fields that are addressing urgent social problems such as climate change. Truly open access that makes research available to the widest audience in the shortest time period, is critical for scholarship to grow, to inform practice, and to actually improve the world.”

The intentional actions that we are taking as a journal community demonstrate the value and priority that we place on just and equitable responses to climate change. We are implementing measures developed with our global editorial team specifically aimed at creating a system that supports progress towards climate justice:

  • We are using our platform to highlight the perspectives of underrepresented regions, actors and communities. As an example, just last week, we- along with the whole of PLOS- stood with 250 other journals to highlight the health impacts of climate change in Africa
  • We are working with regional partners to build capacity in authorial skills and peer review and to increase the accessibility of publishing
  • We are convening dialogues and discussions around Open Science opportunities with researcher communities across our multidisciplinary scope
  • We are actively encouraging the co-design and co-production of research and introducing policies to promote transparent reporting of research undertaken across countries and communities
  • We are working to maximise the availability and usability of research findings to the societal stakeholders who can act on them
  • We are encouraging submissions and publishing research on all dimensions of climate justice

There is much more that we can do to fulfil this crucial element of our mission, and we will  continue to strive to remove barriers to participation in global publishing and to advocate and realise the benefits of open research. We are excited to see these issues brought to the fore in this year’s Open Access Week, and the PLOS Climate team looks forward to joining conversations with the international community throughout the week and beyond.

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