July 17 () –
The current model of sustainability science requires a fundamental redesign to keep up with the pace and complexity of the challenges facing the planet, says the High-Level Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability, created by the International Council of The science.
In a new report launched at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum, the Commission warns that current scientific design, funding and practices are failing to address complex global problems at the speed and scale needed.
To rectify this situation, the Commission recommends the creation of an ambitious network of “scientific missions” of 1,000 million dollars a year (about 890 million euros) in regional sustainability centers around the world.
These hubs would address complex, context-specific issues — from climate change and malnutrition to water security and clean energy — through a systematic engagement process, from problem definition to implementation, with key stakeholders stakeholders from regions where they are needed, especially in the Global South.
A collective investment of this magnitude does not represent even one percent of the global annual R&D budget, but it would significantly accelerate progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
“Sustainability is no longer an aspiration; it has become an imperative,” says Ambassador Csaba Korösi, President of the United Nations General Assembly. “To seek integrated and sustainable solutions, policy and policy decisions at the United Nations Nations must be backed by scientifically based evidence.”
As described in the report ‘Flipping the Science Model: A Roadmap to Science Missions for Sustainability’, the Commission advocates a “science missions” approach, aimed at overcoming fragmented and compartmentalized scientific knowledge that often fails to connect with the most immediate needs of society or address them. It intends to work in a transdisciplinary and collaborative way, driven by demand and oriented towards results.
Convened by the International Scientific Council (ISC), the Commission includes former heads of UN agencies and ministries, as well as heads of scientific academies and national foundations.
“Just as the international community has turned to big science approaches to build infrastructure like CERN and the Square Kilometer Array, a similar mindset should be applied, especially in the Global South, to address sustainable development challenges,” says the Commission co-chair, Irina Bokova, former Director-General of UNESCO.
“Unless funders accept the need to transform their funding instruments to promote transdisciplinary, stakeholder-engaged research, science will continue to be underexploited to address the challenges of the 2030 Agenda,” he adds.
“Actionable scientific knowledge can only be generated through frank dialogues between scientists and funders based on trust,” warn Peter Gluckman, President, and Salvatore Aricò, CEO. “The same applies to the interaction of scientists with decision-makers. politicians, on the one hand, and with local and indigenous communities, on the other, as both parties are exposed to the need to find solutions to complex sustainability challenges at multiple scales”.
As a proof of concept, the Commission is requesting financial support for a series of 18-month pilot projects that demonstrate the delivery of mission-oriented research through these centers and refine their approach, with the ultimate goal that from So about 20 centers work.
The hubs would provide a framework for doing science for the SDGs in a different way. They would enable the development of contextualized solutions to sustainability challenges, both locally and globally, ensuring that science is fit-for-purpose, inclusive and results-oriented to address the complex real-world situations it seeks to transform.
In Nepal, for example, the damming of the rivers that drain from the Himalayas to India is intended to meet the growing energy needs of multiple regions across national borders, as well as a source of economic growth. Similarly, the construction of roads and railways to connect with neighboring countries to the north and south could provide not only national economic benefits, but also access to facilities for remote communities.
Similarly, the Zambezi river basin in southern Africa is a critical resource for supplying food, energy, water and supporting ecosystems for the surrounding population.
All of these advances would require a science-based understanding of the trade-offs, unintended consequences, and risks that may arise with them, with important implications for the short- and long-term well-being of economies, communities, and ecosystems, they conclude.