Sustainability research is growing nearly twice as fast as research, report finds

 Research that informs sustainable development is experiencing a surge as shown by a report by Elsevier and SciDev.Net released on the eve of the United Nation’s Sustainability Summit. Research on sustainability has grown almost twice as fast as research overall between 2009 and 2013 (7.6%).

The findings are included in a new report, Sustainability Science in a Global Landscape, released today by Elsevier, a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, and SciDev.net, the world’s leading source of news about science and technology for global development.

Underpinned by the 17 new United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the report focuses on six themes of sustainability science: dignity, people, prosperity, planet, justice, and partnership. It examines global research output and citation impact, research collaboration among nations and sectors, and the interdisciplinary nature of research in the field between 2009 and 2013.

The report shows that, despite the strong interest in sustainability science, the level of interdisciplinary research in sustainability science is below world average, and low-income countries contribute no more than 2 percent of the research output in sustainability science compared high-income countries.

Other findings presented in the report include:

  • The top 5 countries for research in sustainability science are: USA, UK, China, Germany and Australia.
  • South Africa and countries in East Africa serve as network hubs connecting other African countries to the western countries.
  • Collaborations with developed countries are essential for low-income countries.
  • Planet is the largest and second fastest growing theme with an annual growth rate of 10.7% in research output.
  • The US research focus is on the theme of People, then planet and Justice. China’s research focus is first on the theme of Planet and second on Prosperity, while the UK focuses on Planet, People and Justice.

The report is based on both quantitative and qualitative analyses led by Elsevier’s Analytical Services team, part of Elsevier Research Intelligence Solutions, and carried out in collaboration with SciDev.Net. The report is based on data from Elsevier’s Scopus abstract and citation database, and supplemented by input and interviews with key researchers in the field.

To unveil the report, Elsevier and SciDev.Net have hosted a panel discussion Sept 24, 2015, where leading experts on sustainable development will discuss some of the key findings and themes outlined in the report. Follow @ElsevierConnect on Twitter.

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