On 22 April, 2017, approximately 1.3 million people in over 600 cities worldwide marched in the name of science. Listed first and foremost in their goals, the March for Science aimed to “strengthen the role of science in policymaking.” While efforts to keep political and scientific agendas separate have often prevented contamination from competing interests, the sustainable future of our society and our planet depends on finding a way to integrate research into policy-making decisions without comprising the integrity of either sphere.
Motivated by the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, conferences are being arranged worldwide to address this very issue. In 2015, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the United Nations University (UNU) (with the assistance of the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations in New York) hosted the “Measuring Sustainable Development” conference, which brought together researchers, policy makers, and political/civil society organizers to ask “How can science contribute to sustainable development?” A year later, the German Committee Future Earth, and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) organized the “Foresight workshop on science needs in implementing the SDG framework” to establish a streamlined process for identifying and solving Sustainable Development Goal obstacles.
These joint conferences provided an inclusive space for stimulating discussions and productive interaction. The results proved that science could 1) help us better understand the interlinkages between the SDGs and their inherent challenges, and 2) track the progress of their achievement. To summarize both meetings and highlight recommendations for action and research opportunities, all aforementioned parties produced a report entitled “The Contribution of Science in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Due to narrow research dissemination, dense reporting full of industry jargon, and more, the chasm between science and policy is far too wide for one to effectively help the other. Until we agree on boundaries of strong knowledge partnerships that give equal weight to academics, decision-makers, practitioners, business leaders, and civil society, we are missing out on invaluable benefits of this collaboration.