Reports and resources

Mobilizing global sustainable science action is imperative if we are to realize the 2030 Agenda.

Reports and resources


The report Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability presents a framework of ideas on how science, along with science funders, policy-makers, civil society and the private sector, could increase the impact of science towards achieving the SDGs and rise to the occasion of acting effectively in the face of urgent and existential risks to humanity. The report A Synthesis of Research Gaps aims for science to enable societies to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Unleashing science cover
Unleashing Science
Unleashing science cover
A Synthesis of Research Gaps

Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability

The Unleashing Science report offers an ambitious approach – a concerted effort to produce actionable knowledge through a limited number of Sustainability Science Missions – in the critical areas of food, energy and climate, health and wellbeing, water, and urban areas. For science to unleash its full promise, it must be focused, shielded, and continually and substantially supported and promoted – both financially and politically. Scaling up science investment to support Sustainability Science Missions strongly and sustainably, united around a common sustainability agenda, provides a real opportunity for mobilizing and putting to use the best global science for societal transformations in an outcome-driven, coordinated, and integrated manner.

Delivering the Sustainability Science Missions will require broad and bold engagement, and commitment, from science funders, but also from the decisionmakers and influencers in governments, in the private sector and in civil society.

Cover of the publication Unleashing Science

Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability

International Science Council, 2021.

DOI: 10.24948/2021.04

The International Science Council together with partners are committed to work with political leaders, science funders, both national and philanthropic, and development aid agencies to identify the most appropriate institutional arrangements and funding mechanisms required to co-construct and deliver on the Sustainability Science Missions.

The Unleashing Science report was developed based on the input collected from an ISC-led global call in 2020 to shape a priority action agenda for science. In addition to the call, the ISC undertook extensive reviews of international research agenda-setting reports and the relevant scientific literature published since the adoption of the SDGs. The collected inputs not only informed the development of the Unleashing Science report, but also provided valuable insights on research gaps and priorities which, if pursued, could support the impact that the Sustainability Science Missions seek to accomplish. These insights are captured in A Synthesis of Research Gaps. The intention of this synthesis is to help guide future scientific and science funding action.

A Synthesis of Research Gaps

Following the first Global Forum of Funders, the International Science Council convened the insights and ideas of the global scientific community on the critical priorities for science that will support and enable societies to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 through a global call for inputs, while undertaking the review of international agenda-setting reports and transformative frameworks and commissioning the review of the relevant academic literature.

A Synthesis of Research Gaps

International Science Council, 2021.

The inputs collected through the global call and the literature reviews provided in addition valuable insights on research gaps and priorities which, if pursued, could support the impact that the Sustainability Science Missions seek to accomplish. The present document introduces these research gaps and possible priorities. They have been distilled into five topical areas:

  • Topic A: Sustainable planet for a dignified human future
  • Topic B: Economies for the people and the planet
  • Topic C: Towards integrated and inclusive governance and capable institutions at all levels
  • Topic D: Digital transformations for humanity and inclusive sustainable development
  • Topic E: Understanding the processes of societal transformations in different contexts.

Other resources

SDG-related research will require systemic transformations of science systems, including the development of open science, revision of existing incentives and reward system, creating enabling environment for trans-disciplinary research, supporting knowledge brokerage and science advisory ecosystems, and addressing science capacity needs at individual, institutional and policy levels.

Securing such developments is a systemic responsibility, shared by scientists themselves, the institutions in which they work, the policymakers that shape the conditions under which they work, and science funders that influence and resource priority agendas.

To this end, the International Science Council organised a webinar with leaders from the science funding communities to explore the critical changes required within science systems to enable science to effectively respond to the SDGs by the 2030 deadline. The key insights/recommendations from this webinar were reported at the second Global Forum of Funders in 2021.

Webinar: The role of science and science funders in the time of the COVID-19 crisis

HLPF side-event: Unleashing Science – Delivering Missions for Sustainability

Contact persons

For more information about the initiative, please contact:

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