With just ten years to go to achieve the 17 ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN’s 2030 Agenda, science funders and the research community have initiated an ambitious “Decade of Global Sustainability Science Action” in order to enhance strategic collaboration and to accelerate the impact of science and science funding on the achievement of the SDGs.
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.
A global forum, convened by the International Science Council and its partners, was held in Washington DC in July 2019, where 80 leaders, representing national research funding agencies, international development aid agencies, private foundations and scientific institutions, called for the scaling up of game-changing collective action within funding and science systems throughout the world in order to maximize impact of science towards the implementation of the SDGs.
Through the Decade of Global Sustainability Science Action, science funders and the research community seek to:
- apply a holistic and systems approach to tackling pressing global challenges, treating the SDGs as an indivisible agenda;
- support transformative, high-impact and transdisciplinary knowledge creation;
- promote mission-driven research, but also harness the contributions of fundamental research; and
- support enabling activities, e.g. capacity development and knowledge brokerage.
The next meeting of this group was planned to take place in May 2020 Durban, South Africa in conjunction with the Global Research Council’s annual meeting, 24-25 May 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was postponed until the first trimester of 2021. The exact dates are still to be determined.
To unlock the full potential of science to achieve the SDGs in the short time frame that is left, the business as usual approach to science funding is not enough. More strategic and collaborative approaches to science funding are required, moving away from individual to collective action.
Together, science funders are in a powerful position and can achieve a longer-term impact at a scale beyond what any one actor could achieve alone. With the SDGs framework providing a common language and organizing principles, the appetite for collaboration is growing.
This decadal initiative is a collaboration of the willing. It is open to traditional science funders and to organizations that depend on strong science for the success of their own work on SDGs, including foundations, development aid agencies and private sector organizations.
Join us and be part of a coalition of the willing to unleash the full potential of science and drive system change in the way science is done, assessed, and funded.
Here’s what the science funding and scholarly community are saying about the decadal initiative:
“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 United States 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.”AnnaMaria Oltorp, Head of Research cooperation, Sida
Rationale for launching “Decade of Global Sustainability Science Action”
- Despite the urgency, the implementation of the SDGs is not on track and the latest predictions are that no single country will meet all of the goals by the 2030 deadline. Only an urgent, more ambitious and well-resourced global plan of action will ensure that the goals are met.
- Science has a fundamental role to play in achieving progress towards the implementation of the SDGs by providing evidence for decision-making and informing the development of more sustainable solutions. Science can accelerate transformative change by identifying the most significant interactions within the SDGs, help to fill in data gaps and monitor progress.
- For an accelerated implementation of the SDGs, it is critical to build and harness scientific knowledge and capacities, particularly in low- and middle-income countries; synthesize existing knowledge; and create a ‘moon-shot’ mission for Sustainability Science.
- Transformative and truly transdisciplinary research will be required to scale up the impact of science and to address something as complex as the SDGs. To really challenge the status quo, science needs to engage more with policy-makers and build strong partnerships with both the public and private sectors. This requires an urgent review of the way science is done, assessed, and funded.
For more information about the initiative and the next forum in Durban, please contact Katsia Paulavets firstname.lastname@example.org