History: the Global Forum of Funders

Acknowledging the pressing need to leverage science for sustainable development, the ISC and partners initiated the Global Forum of Funders – a collaborative platform bringing together leaders from national research funding agencies, international development aid agencies, private foundations, and scientific institutions.

History: the Global Forum of Funders

Recognizing the imperative to fully leverage science for sustainable development, the International Science Council launched the Global Forum of Funders (GFF) initiative in 2019. Collaborating with esteemed organizations such as the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and others, the ISC established the GFF as an inclusive platform. Comprising leaders from national research funding agencies, development aid agencies, private foundations, and scientific institutions, the GFF is dedicated to amplifying collective efforts within global funding and science systems to enhance the impact of science on SDG implementation.

The inaugural Forum convened in 2019, hosted by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. Eighty leaders representing various sectors launched the Decade of Global Sustainability Science Action. Throughout the Decade, science funders and the research community aim to adopt a holistic approach to addressing global challenges, emphasizing transdisciplinary knowledge creation, promoting mission-driven research, and supporting essential enabling activities such as capacity development and knowledge brokerage.

Furthermore, science funders entrusted the International Science Council with crafting a priority action agenda for science to facilitate societal transformations toward sustainability. Following a global call and extensive literature review, the ISC developed two key reports: “Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability” and “A Synthesis of Research Gaps for Science to Enable Societies to Accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” published in 2021.

Cover of the publication Unleashing Science

Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability

The report offers a comprehensive framework outlining strategies for enhancing the impact of science in collaboration with science funders, policymakers, civil society, and the private sector to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and effectively address urgent existential risks facing humanity.

The Unleashing Science report called for a concerted effort to produce actionable knowledge through a set of science missions for sustainability, leveraging purpose-driven science alongside the engagement of policymakers, civil society, and the private sector. Presented at the second session of the GFF in April 2021, the report garnered substantial attention, leading to the ISC being tasked with spearheading a consultative process to identify institutional arrangements and funding mechanisms for implementing these missions.

This initiative led to the formation of the Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability, which, with support from the Technical Advisory Group (TAG), developed a model for implementing Science Missions for Sustainability. This model is outlined in the Flipping the Science Model: A Roadmap to Science Missions for Sustainability report.

Cover of the "Flipping the Science Model" report

Flipping the Science Model

International Science Council, 2023. Flipping the science model: a roadmap to science missions for sustainability, Paris, France, International Science Council. DOI: 10.24948/2023.08.

To pilot the Science Missions for Sustainability model, the International Science Council has initiated a global call. The Council invites visionary funders to champion the development and execution of Science Missions for Sustainability worldwide. These missions are designed to deploy global transdisciplinary science at the necessary pace and scale to address our most pressing sustainability challenges.

For those interested in joining the coalition of visionary funders and partners, please contact Katsia Paulavets at katsia.paulavets@council.science.

Our partners

The initiative is led by the International Science Council in partnership with the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), National Science Foundation (USA), National Research Foundation (South Africa), International Development Research Centre (Canada), UK Research and Innovation, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria), Future Earth, Belmont Forum and Volkswagen Stiftung.

Hear from the science funding and scholarly community 

Overall, insufficient mobilization and reorientation of science more broadly — including its approaches, organization and funding structures — threatens to derail the 2030 Agenda. Rather than standing by and allowing ourselves to come up short, the global community must enable scientific research to fulfil its transformational potential…We believe it is time to commit to a global mission for universally accessible, mutually beneficial sustainability science. Uniting the global North and South, this joint mission will unlock the transformational capacity of research and share its gains equitably.

Peter Messerli, Professor for Sustainable Development at the University of Bern and co-chair of the UN Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), et al, in Nature Sustainability, October 2019.  

Protracted conflict, forced displacement, epidemic disease, food insecurity and the degradation of our environment – these are truly global problems. They require a global response and concerted action is necessary from research funders, as it is from others in the international community. The power of our response will ultimately lie in our willingness to work together.

Andrew Thompson, Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK 

Funders must transform their systems in order to support transdisciplinary and cross-cutting research in all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals. We need new hybrid models of funding that will create the building blocks for impactful research that accelerates the solutions to the SDGs.

Maria Uhle, National Science Foundation (USA), Principle Member for the USA at the Belmont Forum

We need science to empower citizens’ active engagement in finding the solutions to the climate emergency, especially from poor and vulnerable communities.

Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland and ISC Patron.

Sida is delighted to support these kinds of actions, by actively engaging the least developed countries to build on their existing research capacities at local, national and regional levels, and ultimately to contribute to solving global problems such as poverty and inequality.

Anna Maria Oltorp, Head of Research cooperation, Sida

For more background information, see also: 

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