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Modes of scientific engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals

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John Penrose,
International Development Correspondent,

In the "Global Sustainable Development Report" published in September, 2019 by the group of expert scientists is a section under Chapter III, "Science for sustainable development" which has a description and diagram of "Modes of scientific engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals".

The narrative is presented below followed by the diagram they present:

Three relevant modes of scientific research engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals can be distinguished. They are not mutually exclusive, but they should complement each other in a pluralistic manner.

Referring to the 2030 Agenda Assessing the impact of human-environmental dynamics and providing a better understanding of complex causal chains driving the phenomena that affect multiple dimensions of sustainable development. Prompted by any public or private interest, it can aid understanding of the social and/or natural world and its current dynamics or possible futures, for example, by modeling inequality in a specific country.

Guided by the 2030 Agenda Exploring solutions and possible pathways to achieve the Goals. Scientists take the Goals and their interactions as a starting point and identify promising measures and interventions to realize the objectives of the 2030 Agenda. In that case, while maintaining scientific rigour, the research focus may shift significantly from understanding phenomena (e.g., social inequality) to identifying and detailing ways of improving them (e.g., policies of redistribution, more inclusive economic models).

Conducted in accordance with the 2030 Agenda Some development issues are both highly contested and poorly understood, as when citizens dispute the environmental and social impacts of foreign direct investment in agriculture. Evidence-based deliberations can build consensus on acceptable trade-offs, which may then point to new knowledge needs. For complex systems that are difficult for different stakeholders to understand, the skills of the researcher may become more important than the explanation itself. Participation in co-production of knowledge typically requires researchers to be explicit about their own values, while striving to preserve the independence, transparency, and reproducibility of their methods.