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Sustainability research on the march

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Research that informs sustainable development is experiencing a surge as innovative ways to preserve environmental health and safeguard societal well-being top global leaders' agendas, a report by Elsevier and SciDev.Net shows.

According to the report, released on the eve of the United Nation's Sustainability Summit, research on sustainability has grown almost twice as fast as research overall each year between 2009 and 2013 (7.6 per cent compared to an annual growth rate for all published research of 3.9 percent).

Sustainability research also receives 30 per cent more citations than an average research paper, indicating the high relevance that scientific investigations have into the many facets of sustainability, such as clean energy, humane living conditions, and gender equality.

The findings are included in a new report, Sustainability Science in a Global Landscape, released by Elsevier, a world-leading provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, and SciDev.net, the 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 and reception of 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 to 76 percent contributed by high-income countries.

'Despite the tremendous growth sustainability science has seen in recent years, the low rate of interdisciplinary research and the low level of collaboration between developed and developing countries show room for improvement,' said Ron Mobed, Elsevier's chief executive officer. 'Ultimately, science needs to be fully integrated to address the world’s grand challenges. We will need to build local research networks with global capacity. This report provides valuable insights for further discussions and to benchmark our progress.'