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Tommaso Ciarli (UNU-MERIT)

25 February 2022 @ 12:30 - 13:30


  • Past event


25 February 2022
12:30 - 13:30
Event Category:
Academic Events

Steering Research and Innovation for the Global Goals”


Abstract. Billions of dollars are spent every year on science, technology and innovation (STI). Yet our understanding of how that investment supports the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remains limited. We develop a new method to identify research that is related to an SDG by examining research areas in WoS (built using direct citations) with a higher share of publications that contain text that is related to SDG policy outlets. We identify the main countries and organisations focused on specific SDGs and how this has changed through time. We find that most research in the world focuses on issues unrelated to the SDGs and that, within SDG-related research, more than 90% is carried out in high and upper-middle income countries, where SDG challenges tend to be smaller. We study research synergies between SDGs. Using all SDG related publications we find three main clusters: environmental SDGs, social sciences, and growth and infrastructures. We find these clusters are relatively disconnected. We then define a tipology SDG realtaed research: SDG research is more likely to be collaborative, open access, and used in policy and soceity. It tends to receive less funding, be neglected by private organisations and less used in innovations.
We then analyse the extent to which countries’ research priorities align with their greatest SDG challenges and whether misalignments are worse in certain SDGs. We use the SDG indicators to create a new score to assess the performance of countries in SDGs in relation to the top performers. At the SDG level, our findings indicate a positive relation (alignment) between research priorities and SDG challenges only for SDG1 (No poverty), SDG2 (Zero hunger), SDG3 (Good health and well-being) and SDG6 (Clean water and sanitation); meaning that countries with higher SDG challenges are relatively more involved in research related to those SDGs. However, we find that this positive relation is partly due to historical patterns of research specialisation: countries that experience an increase in those SDG challenges, do not experience a significant increase in specialisation. For all other SDGs, we found a misalignment or inconclusive relationship between relative research specialization and SDG challenges. For example, the countries that generate more CO2 emissions, contribute more to biodiversity loss, and have the most unsustainable consumption/production patterns are usually higher income countries that are not specialized in research related to SDG12 (Responsible consumption and production), SDG13 (Climate action) or SDG15 (Life on land).