Elsevier launches “Sustainability Science in a Global Landscape” report

On 24 September 2015, the eve of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York City, Elsevier launched its Sustainability Science in a Global Landscape Report.

Why now?

This week, at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, 194 nations have come together to collectively commit to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which follow and expand on the Millennium Development Goals. To understand the challenges, there are questions to address that can be informed by the state of sustainability science: 

  • Are we investing enough in sustainability science? It is an expanding field with an annual growth rate of nearly 8% and one that attracts more than 30% more citations than other research fields on average. However, while growing, it comprises only 3% of the world’s research focus
  • Are we collaborating enough? For solutions to the challenges presented by the SDGs, science will need to be more collaborative across disciplines – for example, between ecologists and computer scientists, marine biologists and food security specialists. The study shows collaboration among scientific disciplines is currently low.  High-income countries produce 76% of sustainability research, and only 2% of research output by low-income countries relates to sustainability science

The report

Sustainable Science in a Global Landscape provides critical insights into the global research landscape underpinning the SDGs. It encompasses research output, citation impact, research collaboration, and interdisciplinary research, catalysing a more informed dialogue between academics, civil society, and policymakers on the best way forward.

In collaboration with SciDev.Net, the report provides a comprehensive picture of the state of sustainability science.  It is the first step in a series of activities on sustainability science which Elsevier will produce to support the sustainable development agenda.

The way forward

The report argues that the research ecosystem to evolve more rapidly. Each player in the field has an opportunity to make improvements:

  • Funders need to play a stronger leadership role and experiment to encourage deeper interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Academic institutions need to adapt their structures to meet the needs of interdisciplinary research
  • Researchers need to increasingly collaborate across borders, sectors, disciplines, and cultures
  • Scientists and journalists need to communicate the importance of sustainability science to the public and to policymakers
  • Policymakers need to advance the agreements they sign, especially the new SDGs
  • Publishers need to provide the channels and tools to support interdisciplinary science

Elsevier is committed to improving the state of sustainability science: our article output on sustainable topics grew by more than 50% between 2009 and 2013, and we are committed to continually introducing new interdisciplinary journals and to building on our unique convening role, for example with our conferences such as the International Conference on Global Food Security. Importantly, our sustainability data and analytics can provide benchmarks against which to map scientific progress.

Please visit Elsevier Connect for more information on Elsevier and the Report.