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Environmental Earth Sciences - An interview with the new Editors-in-Chief of Environmental Earth Sciences: Yan Zheng and Olaf Kolditz

Please give us some background information about yourself.

Yan Zheng: Neuer Inhalt
I am a geochemist who has worked on the hydrosphere, both fresh and saline water, with a focus on water quality, especially parameters with human health implications. I became a Chair Professor of the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), in Shenzhen, China in 2016. Between 1998 and 2016, I held tenured faculty and administrative appointments at the City University of New York and research appointments at Columbia University. I took a leave from my academic positions in the US and worked full time as a water and sanitation specialist with UNICEF Bangladesh between 2009 and 2011.  Education wise, I received my PhD degree in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty in 1999 and my B.Sc degree in Geochemistry from University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in 1988. I am also currently, serving as an Associate Editor for Water Resources Research, as a member of the Stockholm Water Prize Nomination Committee and as a Co-Chair for the International Association of Hydrogeologists – Managing Aquifer Recharge Commission.  I was elected a fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2010 and a fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2021. 

Olaf Kolditz:  Neuer Inhalt
I have to admit having  quite a diverse background, starting from a basis in Theoretical Physics, continuing through Civil Engineering, and arriving within  Environmental Sciences with a substantial component  of Computer Sciences: I studied Physics at the University of Kharkov (at that time within the Soviet Union, now Ukraine), received my PhD from the Academy of Sciences of the former German Democratic Republic (in 1990) and earned my habilitation in Civil Engineering from Hannover University (in 1996). My obsession with Environmental Sciences started in 2001, when I became a professor of Geohydrology and Hydroinformatics at Tübingen University. From 2007 I headed the Department of Environmental Informatics at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) and held a chair in Applied Environmental System Analysis at the Technische Universität in Dresden. As a director of the international Master’s course in Applied Environmental Geosciences at Tübingen and the founding director of the Helmholtz graduate school for environmental research HIGRADE in Leipzig, I had the great pleasure supporting young scientists in their studies and their first academic steps. My true scientific passion is the interface between  Environmental and Computer Sciences (now Data Science) because I believe in the tremendous potential in this scientific marriage of disciplines Two decades ago I launched the OpenGeoSys project, an open source scientific software platform (, which is now used worldwide  by Environmental Geoscientists . Through this software project I was fortunate enough to go to  many places, particularly China, where we were able to launch several international projects in Water Resources and Renewable Energies with my Chinese colleagues, and I had the great pleasure of meeting Yan – my companion in the Environmental Earth Sciences journal. Journal papers are our main dissemination channel and scientific currency, and therefore an important community contribution. The successful formula for a journal is quite “simple”: good science (i.e. authors contributions) + critical (but friendly) reviewers + an engaged editorial team (publisher and editors).

What would you say are the biggest challenges your research field is currently facing?

Our research is increasingly cross-disciplinary, this makes it extremely difficult for graduate students and young scientists to have a broad education but also to develop in-depth expertise in a particular disciplinary area. I believe the training of graduate students and post-doctoral researchers have not kept up with this trend in innovation and how cutting edge science is done now.

Environmental Earth Sciences are directly related to the most challenging societal problems of our century – the energy and ecology transitions (i.e. revolution). These transformation processes will only be possible with a sound understanding of all Earth system processes, including the solid Earth, in a sustainable and smart (the modern word) way. I believe that the digitization process, the creation of digital twins as virtual laboratories, will be very helpful in supporting this transition – when properly used to its full potential.

How did you become involved in Environmental Earth Sciences?

Olaf was very kind in extending an invitation.

I am very grateful to Gunter who brought me to EES, first as Associate Editor and then recommending me as an EiC, as the journal was growing very fast. 

Olaf Kolditz, what has been your biggest achievement working as Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Earth Sciences?

EES is team work! All the achievements are because of the team - the entire value chain: funding, agencies, authors, reviewers, editorial team make the difference. I am very grateful and honored to be part of this team. EES benefits from the tremendous work and legacy of our founding Editors Gunter Dörhöfer and Jim LaMoreaux, the success of the journal would be not even thinkable without their contributions and passion over decades.

Prof Yan Zheng, what do you expect from your role as Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Earth Sciences?

I would like to keep my expectations low and be pleasantly surprised when the journal does well! I expect to begin by recruiting more Associate Editors that can cover the full aims and scopes of the journal with specific in-depth knowledge. This will mean we are greatly assured that the peer reviewers selected are the best fit for  the manuscripts. In addition, I would like to see the peer review journey to be shortened to less than 6 months from submission to publication.

To both, what are your plans for your first year together as Editors-in-Chief of Environmental Earth Science?

Mostly to learn. In addition to the above, I would like to explore a more diverse range of publications, for example, datasets, maps, technical notes, methods, etc.

I hope the journal will continue to develop successfully. We need to find a good balance between range and quality of journal articles. EES strives to represent a broad portfolio of articles in Environmental Earth Sciences including all areas of the world – in particular emerging regions. The success of any journal is measured in so-called performance indicators (i.e. impact factors). EES has now been rated as Q2 journal, which is a huge success considering the large portfolio of subjects within the journal. 

We need to establish EES as a stable Q2 journal and develop it further, step-by-step, to higher quality.