In 2015 the United Nations released a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives of all. This ambitious blueprint outlined 17 Goals and a 15-year timeframe in which to achieve them.
Sustainability is a challenging concept but is broadly defined in this context as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”. The focus on the SDGs and sustainability in general has opened a wealth of opportunities for scientists. One of the biggest shifts in the UK has been in the nature of the funding landscape, with the introduction of the “Global Challenges Research Fund” in 2015 – a £1.5bn UK Government funding initiative. This has in turn seen many Universities and Research Institutes align their research strategies with the SDGs – for example, the British Geological Survey’s “Geoscience for Sustainable Futures” programme, or the University of Nottingham’s Global Research Theme “Developing Sustainable Societies” and Future Food Beacon of Excellence, which have been discussed previously in this column.
Geoscience, our focus at the BGS, as well as other (and arguably all) science disciplines have a crucial role in underpinning and delivering applied solutions to improve economic and social welfare both at home and overseas. Perhaps the key to achieving the goals is tied up in Goal 17 –Partnerships for the Goals. We can no longer be scientists that sail our own ships, the need for crossdisciplinary working has never been stronger. We also need to work effectively and appropriately with overseas partners – be these academics, government bodies, or local communities – working together to co-design research, and co-produce knowledge to positively impact economic, environmental, and social development at local to global scales.
Achieving the UN-SDGs by 2030 might seem like an insurmountable task, and will be challenging, but does represent an exciting opportunity for scientists both in the UK and overseas to contribute to making positive change at a global scale.
Thanks to Dr. Keely Mills from the British Geological Survey (BGS) for contributing to the column this issue.