At a historic UN Summit in 2015, world leaders agreed on 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), and committed to achieving them by 2030. The goals address globally pressing problems, from ending poverty to tackling climate change, and reducing inequality. The goals are intimately linked; progress towards one goal depends on, and affects, other goals. For example, developments in agriculture towards zero hunger (SDG 2) rely on affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), but must also reduce inequalities (SDG 5 and SDG 10), and protect life both on land (SDG 15), and in water (SDG 14). Furthermore, countries may not be able to reach goals in isolation. Today’s societies are globally interconnected, and the effects of climate change can be felt globally. Therefore, the science supporting the SDGs must also be multidisciplinary and international. The SDG Perspectives Project aims to build an environment for collaboration, where experts from all over the world can engage with the SDGs in an interdisciplinary way.
The core of the SDG Perspectives Project is the creation of a comprehensive set of critical reviews centered around the common question of: ‘how is the SDG agenda influencing scholarly debates in different research areas, and vice-versa?’. The intention is to provoke discussion and debate to inform the policy-science interface around the SDGs and the broader 2030 sustainable development agenda. The reviews will provide rich overviews of what the state-of-the-art knowledge is, and which questions need to be answered, as well as provide clear examples of practical solutions and collaborations between research institutions, governmental and non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
The reviews will cover the breadth of the SDGs and will be published as part of three special issues in three key journals. Current Opinions in Environmental Sustainability is one of those journals. It integrates across regional and global systems, and fosters debate by providing expert opinions and evaluations of the literature. The second journal is World Development, which publishes research on global cooperation and international development issues. Arrangements with a third, health-focused journal are currently being made. Together, the papers will form high impact content in one cross-cutting virtual Special Issue.
Elsevier’s Sandra Broerse, Elaine van Ommen Kloeke and Lei Dries-Zhang initiated the SDG perspectives project, and have been supported by project coordinators Karena Grundy and Liz Russell. A selected advisory board met during a two-day workshop in Amsterdam at the beginning of the project in November 2016. The Board is comprised of a diverse group of committed researchers: Arun Agrawal (USA), Julie Balen (UK), Ira Martina Druprady (Singapore), Lorenza Fontana (USA), Ken Giller (The Netherlands), Peter S. Hill (Australia), Shuaib Lwasa (Uganda), Susan Parnell (South Africa), and Johan Oldekop (UK). These researchers from across the globe and from different sectors form a community of researchers who are able to cover the scope of the SDGs and think across them. “Tackling these different SDGs which address so many different issues from a broad perspective, trying to go beyond individual disciplines is what is really needed. The ability to think about them as a whole is very exciting – it’s at these edges that we get innovation.”, commented Johann Oldekop, who chairs the Board. The Board had the task of identifying key challenges and research questions linked to each of the 17 SDGs. The Advisory Board is also responsible for an independent and transparent peer-review process, and the selection of top quality papers, written by experts from across the globe.
The project is extremely important in building a highly impactful body of scientific knowledge that supports sustainable development, says Elsevier’s Philippe Terheggen. An introductory paper, written by the Advisory Board, will provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge underpinning the SDGs. Lei Dries-Zhang says: “The SDG Perspectives Project brings a group of fantastic people together. Publication of the perspective papers will definitely not be the end, but preparation for continuous research and collaboration on the SDGs in the future.”
The perspective papers are scheduled to be published during 2018 in the relevant journals, and will be brought together on the RELX SDG Resource Centre.