A day with America’s only dedicated heat team in the US’s hottest city

Read the full story in The Guardian.

The pioneering team was created last year amid pressure from activists, faith groups and experts to make Phoenix, Arizona, more livable.

Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals policy papers

The Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals is a roadmap to transform chemical industry. It consists of a preamble vision statement and ten platform planks that lay out the principles that must guide this transition. These policy papers provide more background on each Charter plank and provide specific policy directions and recommendations to put them into practice.

The following papers are currently available:

Carbon dating hampered by rising fossil-fuel emissions

Read the full story in Nature.

Archaeologists will increasingly have to rely on other techniques as emissions continue to alter the composition of carbon isotopes in air.

The peer review system is broken. We asked academics how to fix it


by Kelly-Ann Allen, Monash University; Jonathan Reardon, Durham University; Joseph Crawford, University of Tasmania, and Lucas Walsh, Monash University

The peer review process is a cornerstone of modern scholarship. Before new work is published in an academic journal, experts scrutinise the evidence, research and arguments to make sure they stack up.

However, many authors, reviewers and editors have problems with the way the modern peer review system works. It can be slow, opaque and cliquey, and it runs on volunteer labour from already overworked academics.

Last month, one of us (Kelly-Ann Allen) expressed her frustration at the difficulties of finding peer reviewers on Twitter. Hundreds of replies later, we had a huge crowd-sourced collection of criticisms of peer review and suggestions for how to make it better.

The suggestions for journals, publishers and universities show there is plenty to be done to make peer review more accountable, fair and inclusive. We have summarised our full findings below.

Three challenges of peer review

We see three main challenges facing the peer review system.

First, peer review can be exploitative.

Many of the companies that publish academic journals make a profit from subscriptions and sales. However, the authors, editors and peer reviewers generally give their time and effort on a voluntary basis, effectively performing free labour.

And while peer review is often seen as a collective enterprise of the academic community, in practice a small fraction of researchers do most of the work. One study of biomedical journals found that, in 2015, just 20% of researchers performed up to 94% of the peer reviewing.

Peer review can be a ‘black box’

The second challenge is a lack of transparency in the peer review process.

Peer review is generally carried out anonymously: researchers don’t know who is reviewing their work, and reviewers don’t know whose work they are reviewing. This provides space for honesty, but can also make the process less open and accountable.

The opacity may also suppress discussion, protect biases, and decrease the quality of the reviews.

Peer review can be slow

The final challenge is the speed of peer review.

When a researcher submits a paper to a journal, if they make it past initial rejection, they may face a long wait for review and eventual publication. It is not uncommon for research to be published a year or more after submission.

This delay is bad for everyone. For policymakers, leaders and the public, it means they may be making decisions based on outdated scientific evidence. For scholars, delays can stall their careers as they wait for the publications they need to get promotions or tenure.

Scholars suggest the delays are typically caused by a shortage of reviewers. Many academics report challenging workloads can discourage them from participating in peer review, and this has become worse since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has also been found that many journals rely heavily on US and European reviewers, limiting the size and diversity of the pool of reviewers.

Can we fix peer review?

So, what can be done? Most of the constructive suggestions from the large Twitter conversation mentioned earlier fell into three categories.

First, many suggested there should be better incentives for conducting peer reviews.

This might include publishers paying reviewers (the journals of the American Economic Association already do this) or giving some profits to research departments. Journals could also offer reviewers free subscriptions, publication fee vouchers, or fast-track reviews.

However, we should recognise that journals offering incentives might create new problems.

Another suggestion is that universities could do better in acknowledging peer review as part of the academic workload, and perhaps reward outstanding contributors to peer review.

Some Twitter commentators argued tenured scholars should review a certain number of articles each year. Others thought more should be done to support non-profit journals, given a recent study found some 140 journals in Australia alone ceased publishing between 2011 and 2021.

Most respondents agreed that conflicts of interest should be avoided. Some suggested databases of experts would make it easier to find relevant reviewers.

Use more inclusive peer review recruitment strategies

Many respondents also suggested journals can improve how they recruit reviewers, and what work they distribute. Expert reviewers could be selected on the basis of method or content expertise, and asked to focus on that element rather than both.

Respondents also argued journals should do more to tailor their invitations to target the most relevant experts, with a simpler process to accept or reject the offer.

Others felt that more non-tenured scholars, PhD researchers, people working in related industries, and retired experts should be recruited. More peer review training for graduate students and increased representation for women and underrepresented minorities would be a good start.

Rethink double-blind peer review

Some repondents pointed to a growing movement towards more open peer review processes, which may create a more human and transparent approach to reviewing. For example, Royal Society Open Science publishes all decisions, review letters, and voluntary identification of peer reviewers.

Another suggestion to speed up the publishing process was to give higher priority to time-sensitive research.

What can be done?

The overall message from the enormous response to a single tweet is that there is a need for systemic changes within the peer review process.

There is no shortage of ideas for how to improve the process for the benefit of scholars and the broader public. However, it will be up to journals, publishers and universities to put them into practice and create a more accountable, fair and inclusive system.

The authors would like to thank Emily Rainsford, David V. Smith and Yumin Lu for their contribution to the original article Towards improving peer review: Crowd-sourced insights from Twitter.

Kelly-Ann Allen, Associate Professor, School of Educational Psychology and Counselling, Faculty of Education, Monash University; Jonathan Reardon, , Durham University; Joseph Crawford, Senior Lecturer, Educational Innovation, University of Tasmania, and Lucas Walsh, Professor and Director of the Centre for Youth Policy and Education Practice, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Detroit’s incinerator is coming down. Now, neighbors want a say in repairing toxic legacy.

Read the full story at Bridge Michigan.

For generations, Angie Kelly and her family have lived within sight of one of the largest solid waste incinerators in the country. Now, Kelly wants to see something that benefits the community’s kids in its place.

Stronger sustainability requirements in foodservice packaging are surfacing as the trend continues to grow

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

Packaging sustainability is a mega trend impacting the packaging industry, according to the new report “Sustainable Foodservice Packaging Market – Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2022 – 2027)” by Reportlinker.com

As a result, new, stronger sustainability requirements regularly surfaced on various fronts. The increase in concern for environmental impacts caused by these plastic containers among the food service industries is leading to multiple companies using recycled materials for food services, helping to drive the market.

Those lights aren’t just messing with your sleep. They’re bothering the trees.

Read the full story at Anthropocene.

Like humans, trees have circadian clocks. A new study finds urban light pollution changes those clocks, causing trees to leaf out earlier and change color later.

In climate-driven disasters, older people and the disabled are most at risk. Now in-home caregivers are being trained to help them

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

A pilot program in California is offering tools and emergency response training to caregivers, who often find themselves on the front lines of wildfires, hurricanes or other natural disasters.

Tetra Pak fights climate change with fiber-based barrier alternative to aluminum in food cartons

Read the full story at Food Ingredients 1st.

Tetra Pak is testing a fiber-based barrier to replace the aluminum layer in its cartons for improved climate impact and recyclability. The “industry-first” technology is currently on shelf for commercial consumer testing for food carton packs distributed under ambient conditions. 

Flexible packaging at a critical crossroads in sustainability

Read the full story in Packaging Digest.

The straight and narrow road leads flexibles to an uncertain future and less sustainable packaging. The longer route expands the role of flexibles in preventing food waste.