Unleashing Science

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 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 strongly and sustainably support Sustainability Science Missions, 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.

If you are interested to collaborate with the International Science Council on advancing mission-oriented science for sustainability, please contact Katsia Paulavets at katsia.paulavets@council.science

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.


The report was developed under the valuable guidance and advice provided by the members of the Scientific Advisory Group, strategic advisers and partners of the Global Forum of Funders.

Scientific Advisory Group:

  • Susanne C. Moser, Strategic Advisor of the International science Council on Transformations to Sustainability
  • Line Gordon, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden
  • Bob Scholes, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, sadly passed away on 28 April 2021
  • Roberto A. Sánchez-Rodríguez, College of the Northern Border, Mexico
  • Anthony Capon, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Australia
  • Peter Messerli, Wyss Academy for Nature, Switzerland
  • Melody Brown Burkins, The John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, USA

Strategic advisers and partners of the Global Forum of Funders:

  • Albert van Jaarsveld, Director General, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • Peter Gluckman, President-elect, International Science Council, Chair of INGSA, and Director of Koi Tū: Centre for Informed Futures
  • Heide Hackmann, CEO, International Science Council
  • Mathieu Denis, Science Director, International Science Council
  • Maria Uhle, Program Director for International Activities, US National Science Foundation, co-Chair of the Belmont Forum
  • Maggie Gorman Velez, Director, Policy and Evaluation, International Development Research Centre
  • Aldo Stroebel, Executive Director Strategic Partnerships, National Research Foundation of South Africa
  • Josh Tewksbury, Former Director of the Colorado Global Hub, Future Earth
  • AnnaMaria Oltorp, Head of Research Cooperation, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
  • Roshni Abedin, Senior International Policy Manager, UK Research and Innovation

The Unleashing Science report is produced under the framework of the Global Forum of Funders led by the International Science Council in partnership with: