I extend my best wishes for the new year of 2023 to the global Earth science community as the incoming Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Geological Society. I am honoured to take on this important position and responsibility to lead the flagship journal (published continuously since 1845) of our Society, which is the oldest professional organization (founded in 1807) in the broad field of geosciences. Since then, the Journal has played a major role in bringing some of the most significant findings and contributions in the broad field of Earth sciences to the attention of the global scientific community, the public, and policy makers. It stands very high in a unique niche in the Earth and planetary science literature by continually publishing high-impact papers and thematic collections that are highly diverse in subject matter, cutting across a wide spectrum of disciplinary fields. Ranging in length from short, innovative papers to medium and long, data-rich papers on new findings and concepts or timely and incisive reviews, papers published in the Journal originate from a wide cross-section of the international science community. This diversity in the types of published papers and in their wide geographic and disciplinary distribution, together with the diverse scientific, ethnic, and gender backgrounds of the Editorial Board members, reflects the strength of the culture of inclusivity of the Journal.
Contemporary science is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, using a systems approach in addressing a broad spectrum of scientific questions and problems. This practice is perhaps best displayed in the Earth sciences, in which there is strong collaboration and synergy amongst different disciplinary subfields (National Research Council 2012). This practice of Earth System Science (ESS) emphasizes the interconnectedness of different spheres of the Earth (lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and cryosphere) and their interactions through various processes occurring in a wide range of scales and time-slices (Steffen et al. 2020). With the ESS approach to education and environmental and societal problems, citizens of the world are to become better informed about the operation of the Earth system and its critical thresholds (Orion 2019). This is, in turn, very important to develop effective response strategies to global problems, such as climate change, ocean acidification, diminishing biodiversity, and growing lack of clean and safe freshwater (Acocella 2015).
An existential challenge for humankind in this century is to instate Earth and environment literacy in multiple generations so that we can coexist with and take care of our natural environments most effectively going forward into the future (Orion 2019). We can only understand the nature and scale of humans’ impact on Earth's diverse and fragile environments by raising the level of our knowledge of Earth processes and by increasing the numbers of environmentally well-informed and insightful citizens. To this end, we, the geoscientists, journal Editors, and professional organizations have a significant responsibility on two fronts: (1) providing the scientific community and the public with the data, observations, factual knowledge, and most recent findings of the ESS research in objective, impartial and timely ways; and (2) making sure that the published science has relevance for the past, the present and the future of human civilizations, our environments, and all life forms.
As the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Geological Society I am committed to support those geoscientists who aspire to publish their exciting, innovative, and overarching research results in a timely fashion. I welcome contributions that are truly interdisciplinary and provocative (in inspirational ways) within the realm of ESS. Disagreement and controversy are essential to scientific advancement and progress (Williams 2016; Lamers et al. 2021). The broad field of Earth sciences is full of controversies (e.g. whether or not plate tectonics operated in the Archean; did India collide with Asia in the Paleocene or later in the Oligo–Miocene?). The related scientific inquiry and research on such controversial topics by different scientific teams make us better understand the mode, nature and tempo of many Earth processes and their interconnectedness. We must keep in mind that the geological facts and concepts we now know were uncovered following an enormous amount of research and debate (Williams 2016). Therefore, we plan on juxtaposing different viewpoints and interpretations on a series of controversial topics in the future issues of the Journal, because objective scientific publishing speeds up the resolution of disagreements and the ruling out of incorrect or faulty hypotheses. This new addition of controversial science coverage in the existing ‘Perspective’ contribution type should raise the scientific impact of the Journal and the level of interest amongst its global readership. The Journal's editorial team will also continue to make the best efforts to provide the authors with a shortest possible ‘turn-around time’ (from submission to online publication) for their paper.
In closing, I extend my sincere thanks to my predecessor, Professor Graham Shields, for his great service to the Society and to the international readership of the Journal as its Editor-in-Chief. I look forward to working closely with our Subject Editors, Editorial Board members, the staff of the Society's Publishing House, and the Journal Manager, Bethan Littley, to further advance the international stature of our Journal, on a par with its prestigious history.