The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations (UN) in 2015, offer a roadmap towards a better world for all. From promoting health and well-being to tackling climate change, the 17 SDGs address the global challenges that humanity faces and act as a universal call to protect the planet and improve lives.

The SDGs are complex, and many need to be addressed through social, political and financial changes. Nevertheless, science and technology have a lot to contribute, and can help bring multiple benefits, building on synergies among the interrelated goals. Given the critical role of scientific research in achieving the SDGs, the UN launched the Technology Facilitation Mechanism to support the implementation of the SDGs through the sharing of information, experiences, best practices and policy advice, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is a member.

China released a national plan in 2016 to help with the implementation of the SDGs. As the country’s leading research institution, CAS is accustomed to leveraging its strengths to advance solutions to real-world problems. So the question became: how has CAS’s research contributed to addressing the SDGs? And, compared with other leading research institutions, what SDGs is CAS’s research output most aligned with? This report tackles these questions using publication data tracked in the Dimensions database from 2008 to 2018. It reviews CAS’s research output relevant to the 17 SDGs over the past 10 years, and identifies the top SDGs for which CAS has had the most scientific publications. It also uses case studies to highlight some of CAS’s research work which has looked at developing solutions to pressing global challenges.

Here are some key findings based on an analysis of scientific publications from 2008 to 2018, as tracked in Digital Science’s Dimensions database:

·  Scientific research has a big role to play in achieving the SDGs, and there are a large number of research publications that can be mapped to them. Out of CAS’s nearly 320,000 science-related journal publications from 2008 to 2018, nearly 15,800 are identified as relevant to SDGs. [These papers are determined by matching article topics and abstracts to descriptions of the 17 goals — and papers can contribute to more than one goal, given the interdisciplinary nature of research and the interconnection of the SDGs.]

·  CAS’s SDG contribution has grown over the past 10 years, from fewer than 400 in 2008 to more than 3,000 in 2018; a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 percent. Research output associated with responsible consumption and production (goal 12) has had the fastest growth, given its low base value. Meanwhile, research publications relevant to climate change, clean energy, and good health are all growing strongly, with CAGRs of 22 percent or more.

·  In global comparisons, CAS has the most SDG-related papers published between 2008 and 2018 among the 11 world’s leading institutions studied here, and has the highest growth rate of SDG-related publications over this 10 year period.

·  CAS has contributed publications to all 17 goals, demonstrating the diverse fields of research covered at CAS. Climate action (goal 13), clean energy (goal 7), good health (goal 3), sustainable cities (goal 11), and life on land (goal 15) are the SDGs for which CAS has the largest number of relevant research publications. Specifically, 58 percent of CAS’s SDG-related research publications are in the area of climate action, and 48 percent looked at clean energy.

·  Compared with its peer institutions, CAS has the highest research output for six (goals 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 15) of the 17 goals, with its lead most pronounced for climate action and clean energy. For the former, it has slightly more than 9,100 articles, while affordable and clean energy has nearly 7,600 articles.

·  Good health and well-being has the third largest SDG-related output for CAS. But as CAS is still catching up with its peer institutions in overall life science and medical research, it is still behind in research output relevant to this SDG. Publications relevant to this goal are growing strongly though, at a CAGR of 27 percent.

·  Most of CAS’s research output relevant to SDGs can be categorized in the fields of engineering, chemical, biological, Earth, or environmental sciences, which, except for environmental sciences, are also the research fields in which CAS has produced the most research.

·  CAS’s primary strengths in chemical sciences and engineering translate into strong contributions to a variety of SDGs, and in particular may explain CAS’s strength in clean and affordable energy (goal 7). Chemical science accounts for 34 percent of CAS’s clean energy papers, while engineering provides 45 percent of CAS’s clean energy output.

·  For CAS’s papers related to climate action (goal 13), the majority are in Earth and biological sciences, which together account for half of climate action-related output.

Measuring contribution to SDGs is not easy. Research publications are just one aspect, and they may not directly translate into solutions. But reviewing CAS’s relevant output does suggest that scientific research has a big role to play in achieving the SDGs, and that there are a large number of research publications that can be mapped to them. And this review, by aligning CAS’s research strengths with its contribution to SDGs, could guide research for the future, leading to innovations that support sustainable development.


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