Launched in 2016, the LIRA 2030 Africa programme (Leading Integrated Research for Agenda 2030) has been a unique ISC research funding programme that has built the capacity of early-career researchers in Africa to undertake transdisciplinary research and make scientific contributions to the implementation of Agenda 2030 in African cities. By fostering new partnerships across different stakeholders and sectors, 28 LIRA projects have helped anchor the Sustainable Development Goals in local contexts, and have increased local ownership and responsiveness of communities to the global agenda.
In 2022, the International Science Council appointed, through a selective process, an evaluation panel to undertake an independent review of the programme. The final LIRA 2030 Africa evaluation was conducted between September 2022 and February 2023 and shed light on what is needed to strengthen high-quality, integrated, solution-oriented research on sustainable development across African cities.
The evaluation has been conducted by an international team of evaluators of the Responsive Research Collective coming from Africa, Latin America, Europe and Australia. In the spirit of the LIRA programme, the evaluation team opted for a dialogical and formative approach to continue learning from experiences of academic researchers, research partners from diverse sectors and communities and program implementers. With a multi-staged mixed methods design that allowed for learning with and for representatives of all involved groups while learning from LIRA 2030 experiences, sound, evidence-based results were created and recommendations developed to support future transdisciplinary research for sustainable development in Africa.
In a unique, inspiring and successful manner, LIRA pursued a multiplicity of objectives to build capacity and strengthen integrated research for sustainable development at the science–society-policy interface in urban Africa. The specific feature of the LIRA programme has been to contribute to the goals of the Agenda 2030 by combining scientific research with transformational action through transdisciplinary research. The evaluation assessed how LIRA 2030 has performed against the objectives of the programme. More specifically, the evaluation aimed at identifying factors contributing to the key achievements and challenges of LIRA projects and to find out how the programme structure and programme-level activities contributed to these. Further, the continued effects of the programme for LIRA grantees and the societal effects of transdisciplinary research in project contexts and beyond were analysed. Particular emphasis was on strengthening collaborative research and knowledge co-production, institutional conditions for transdisciplinary sustainability research and trainings for transdisciplinarity that take into consideration contextual conditions and particular needs.
LIRA 2030 made a significant difference to enhancing the capacity for transdisciplinary sustainability research in Africa and in improving unsustainable situations in urban Africa. Furthermore, the programme environment of LIRA 2030 – with a European funder from the development cooperation sector, leading international and African science institutions implementing the programme, and scholars and research collaborators from the African continent conducting transdisciplinary sustainability research – provided a particular learning opportunity in decolonizing research and international collaboration and valuing different ways of knowing, acting and being. LIRA 2030 is a highly valuable source for others to learn from:
- for funders developing adequate funding schemes;
- for programme-implementing institutions to learn about designing transdisciplinary sustainability research programmes;
- for scholars, in particular early career researchers, to gain insights into the potential, and prepare for the challenges, of such research;
- for research partners from diverse sectors and communities to prepare for collaboration at the science–society-policy interface;
- for university administrators to adapt institutional environments to become more supportive of transdisciplinary sustainability research; and
- for trainers of transdisciplinary research.
Read the two LIRA 2030 Africa reports:
After six years, the knowledge and data generated through the LIRA projects is extensive, and they are not only of academic interest, but also of significance for local communities and policy-makers. All themes dealt with by LIRA projects are central to the 2030 Agenda. The LIRA projects are an illustration of the translation of global agendas at the local level. By fostering new place-based partnerships across different sectors, LIRA projects have helped anchor Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in local contexts, and increased the local ownership of and responsiveness of communities to the global agenda.