We sat down with Professor Nicholas Low, Editor of part 1 of the Journal of Mega Infrastructure & Sustainable Development, to better understand the journal. We wanted to get an idea of the kind of research and professional practice reviews it publishes, how the journal helps authors make an impact with their contributions, and where Nicholas sees the journal developing in the coming years.
Here is what he had to say:
First, can you give us a bit of background to the journal and its mission?
The idea for a new academic and professional journal focused on mega infrastructure stemmed from a collaboration between two Centres of Excellence funded by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations: the OMEGA Centre at University College London and the GAMUT Centre at the University of Melbourne. GAMUT under my leadership agreed to conduct three case studies of transport mega infrastructure decision making in Australia. In exchange, OMEGA led by Harry Dimitriou (now managing editor of the journal) funded a PhD scholarship for GAMUT which went to Sophie Sturup. The concept of the journal was Dimitriou’s, but I was keen to help.
The mission of the journal, as I see it, is to provide a platform for discussion of matters of sustainable development in relation to the generation of mega infrastructure projects. Mega infrastructures, by definition, will last far into the future, shaping behaviour and impacting environmental and social outcomes. They may also be ‘agents of change’. The journal’s field of interest includes mega infrastructure for transport, electricity and gas, water, housing and urban services. Regarding sustainable development, I believe it most important to include the urgent infrastructure needs of developing countries. I also believe that the need for ‘mega’ infrastructure itself needs to be questioned. For instance, how important are mega motorways and tunnels in sustaining mobility across urban transport systems? Will roof top solar, batteries and mini-grids reduce the need for mega power stations?
Why did you want to start this journal and what audience is it seeking to serve?
It is true that ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development’ have entered the vocabulary of mega infrastructure development, but these terms are not well understood and are frequently misused. I wanted the real meaning of these terms to be discussed and debated amongst the infrastructure planning community. The journal is already beginning to do that job.
Our readership is both academic and professional: tertiary education in engineering, architecture, urban and social policy, and professionals in the government and private/community sectors working in these fields. My aim is to stimulate both theoretical development and a clear understanding of current practice.
What kind of research does the journal publish?
The journal publishes theoretical work on the processes of development and management of infrastructure projects, as well as the different national institutional contexts in which they occur.
We are also looking for reflections on and analyses of professional practice. It’s important to recognise that priorities vary amongst nations, for instance water supply and reticulation is critically important for many developing countries, while low carbon transportation – responding to the reality of climate change – occupies a high priority in the developed world. The infrastructure needed to deliver key services is itself in process of change, in some cases rapid change as in the case of electricity generation and supply.
The impact of COVID-19 on infrastructure development is yet to be felt especially in global travel and transport. As well as analyses of past phenomena, we seek papers looking to the future of the infrastructure industry.
Where do you see the journal going in the next five years?
I want to see the journal attain a steadily increasing academic impact score to a high level. At the start, like any new journal, we depend on established scholars to offer papers in order to gain a reputation and attract early and mid-career scholars who need to publish in high impact journals in order to advance their careers. So far, we have received excellent support from our senior colleagues in the field.
More importantly, in the longer term, I want to see the journal contribute to widening debates about mega infrastructure with a new focus on sustainable development. I want the journal to be the one professionals and scholars turn to when thinking broadly about the future of infrastructure, its planning and management.
How will you support authors who are looking to make an impact in policy documents or news reports?
My experience in working with governments in Australia is that it is extremely difficult to persuade them to read academic research and turn the findings into policy. They have consultants to do that for them. Therefore, there may be scope for contact with the more thoughtful consultants, SGS Consulting, for example, whose founders come from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University.
There are organizations specifically created to turn good research into policy-relevant reports, and to engage with governments. One example is the Grattan Institute, an off-shoot of the University of Melbourne. The Institute’s researchers are making a growing impact in the media. I have made contact with the Institute’s leaders in the infrastructure field. As the journal develops, I will continue to make connections between our contributors and the Institute’s scholars.
Finally, how can authors contribute their own research to Journal of Mega Infrastructure & Sustainable Development?
Manuscripts should be submitted directly on-line via our submission system. If you have any queries about how the journal might handle a proposed submission, please contact Dr. John Ward, Assistant Managing Editor.
For information on all types of contributions, and how to submit a manuscript, please see the Call for Papers.
Once accepted selected, articles may first be published on-line before appearing in print editions that will be published tri-annually. All papers undergo double blind peer-review.
I hope you enjoyed reading my Q&A
Professor Nicholas P. Low,
Emeritus Professor and Professorial Fellow in Urban and Environmental Planning,
Melbourne Graduate School of Design, University of Melbourne, Australia