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Science Missions for Sustainability

Be part of the game-changing collective action that shapes the future of science and humanity.

Status: In progress
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We are now more than halfway through the 2030 Agenda, and as pointed out by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, progress on the Sustainable Development Goals is not on track. We must think big, be disruptive and collectively empower science for sustainable societal transformations in the 21st century in order to achieve the ambitions of the Sustainable Agenda.

The call for proposals has now closed, having received over 250 expressions of interest. The Selection Committee is carefully assessing each proposal at the moment. Given the high number of applications, the selection process is taking longer than anticipated. The results will be announced in the second half of July.

To pilot a “big science approach” to sustainability challenges, the International Science Council invites novel, innovative, collaborative consortia to co-design and embark on Science Missions for Sustainability as well as visionary funders and partners to join and support this bold collaborative effort!

“The myriad issues stemming from unsustainable development necessitate collaboration among the scientific community, funders, policymakers, tech firms, and philanthropists. The proposed science missions for sustainability are a game-changer in the way science is implemented – translating knowledge into actionable solutions. Join this crucial initiative to make a difference and help achieve a sustainable future.”

Salvatore Aricò

Salvatore Aricò

CEO

International Science Council

Salvatore Aricò

Piloting the new modality of sustainability science

In the past, the global community has supported big science approaches in basic science and infrastructure, such as CERN. Now, it is the time to think with a CERN mindset to address urgent existential risks, particularly in the regions that face disproportionate burdens and impacts arising from global challenges, and where the SDG progress is lagging the most.

The Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability‘s groundbreaking report, unveiled at the 2023 UN High-Level Political Forum, “Flipping the Science Model: A Roadmap to Science Missions for Sustainability,” outlines this visionary model. It seeks to elevate the collaboration between science, policy, and society to new heights, tailored for our unprecedented era. The goal is to render knowledge fully actionable, integrated, and engaged, aiming for solutions that match the scale of humanity’s most critical challenges.

In the Flipping the Science Model report, the Global Commission proposes to establish a network of Science Missions for Sustainability. Each Mission will focus on mobilizing coordinated, collective science-based actions towards addressing complex sustainability challenges at the global, regional and local levels.

The ISC together with the Global Commission believes there is an urgency to pilot the new modality for science efforts, particularly as we enter the International Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development.

“It is widely recognized that science plays a crucial role in advancing sustainable development goals. However, the timeframe leading up to 2030 requires decisive leadership and coordinated efforts that prioritize critical areas for achieving these goals while leveraging the latest scientific advancements. The scientific missions initiated by the ISC aim to identify and swiftly implement collective actions to maximize the benefits of science within this timeframe, responding to the pressing urgency of the situation”.

Macharia Kamau

Macharia Kamau

Ambassador and Special Envoy

East Africa Community Facilitator on DRC

Macharia Kamau

Global Call for Pilot Missions and for Visionary Funders’ support

Through the call, we sought novel, innovative, collaborative, and diverse consortia to co-design and embark on groundbreaking Science Missions to tackle complex sustainability challenges head-on.

This Global Call aims to select up to five Pilot Missions to test the proposed model, thoroughly examining their execution, outcomes, and impact. Successful Pilots will set the stage for adapting and expanding the model.

The selected Pilots will demonstrate the value of truly collaborative transdisciplinary efforts in helping fast-track the achievement of the SDGs and accelerating societal transformation to sustainability. 

We invited novel collaborative consortia of scientists and scientific organizations, policy-makers, non-governmental organizations, communities, and the private sector, working on the cutting edge of identifying solutions for complex sustainability challenges, to co-design targeted Science Missions for sustainability over an initial 18-month period.

“We in the scientific community need to act courageously to tackle global challenges head-on. The ISC’s Science Missions for Sustainability is a bold and novel initiative that unites science, policy, and society for a sustainable and equitable future. As Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences of UNESCO, it’s an honour to be part of this global effort!”

Gabriela Ramos

Gabriela Ramos

Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences

UNESCO

Gabriela Ramos

To implement Science Missions successfully, significant funding is needed. Collaborating strategically across funding sectors and pooling resources is crucial to maximize impact and efficiency. Early engagement of funders in the mission co-design process is critical. Initially, we aim to secure up to $250,000 per Pilot Mission the 18-month co-design phase. Following co-design, our objective is to secure full mission implementation funding.

While several funders have shown interest, no funding is currently secured. A high-level selection committee made up of eminent individuals will choose shortlisted consortia, after which matchmaking events will be organized later this year to connect shortlisted Pilots with interested funders and discuss funding needs. The goal is to launch five Pilot Missions in the first quarter of 2025, contingent on securing funding for the co-design phase.

The application process included the submission of an expression of interest of about 2000 words, with only shortlisted expressions of interest invited to develop a full bid.

Learn more about the call, its scope, the application and selection processes, timeframe and financial support:

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.

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.

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.

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.

For more background information, see also: 

News & Events View all

news
28 May 2024 - 4 min read

A few more days for consortia to submit applications for the ISC’s Global Call on Science Missions for Sustainability

Learn more Learn more about A few more days for consortia to submit applications for the ISC’s Global Call on Science Missions for Sustainability
news
21 March 2024 - 8 min read

Global Call for Science Missions for Sustainability | deadline: 31 May

Learn more Learn more about Global Call for Science Missions for Sustainability | deadline: 31 May
events
25 April 2024 - 26 April 2024

Q&A Sessions for the Global Call on Science Missions for Sustainability

Learn more Learn more about Q&A Sessions for the Global Call on Science Missions for Sustainability

Project team

Katsia Paulavets

Katsia Paulavets

Senior Science Officer

International Science Council

Katsia Paulavets
Vanessa McBride

Vanessa McBride

Science Director, Acting Head of the Centre for Science Futures

International Science Council

Vanessa McBride
Léa Nacache

Léa Nacache

Communications Officer

International Science Council

Léa Nacache
Olivia Tighe

Olivia Tighe

Administrative Officer

International Science Council

Olivia Tighe

Publications View all

publications
17 July 2023

Flipping the Science Model: A Roadmap to Science Missions for Sustainability

Learn more Learn more about Flipping the Science Model: A Roadmap to Science Missions for Sustainability
publications
11 July 2023

A Model for Implementing Mission Science for Sustainability: proposed by the Technical Advisory Group to the Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability

Learn more Learn more about A Model for Implementing Mission Science for Sustainability: proposed by the Technical Advisory Group to the Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability
publications
22 September 2021

Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability

Learn more Learn more about Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability

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