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Back | Programme Area: Research-Related Activities, Research-Related Activities 2020+

From Science To Practice: Research And Knowledge To Achieve The SDGs

  • Project from: 2020 to 2021

Scientific research can make a critical contribution to addressing global challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, translating the knowledge that comes from research into action remains a complicated task. Research often fails to find its way into policy-making circles due to a number of technical, normative, cultural, political, institutional and financial barriers.

With this in mind, a consortium of Geneva-based institutions has established a new channel through which research and knowledge from International Geneva and its global networks can amplify its impact on national and global policy making and help to achieve the SDGs.

The Initiative

Geneva is a thriving ecosystem, home to a world-class concentration of academic institutes, think tanks, NGOs and international organizations conducting groundbreaking policy-relevant research with their global partners. Building on a series of events exploring how science can be translated into policy and action, a consortium of Geneva-based institutions has established a new channel through which research and knowledge from International Geneva can amplify its impact on global policy making, and help to achieve the SDGs.

Progress towards the goals is reviewed in July each year at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) that takes place in New York. Our process began therefore with a call to organizations to submit research related to three themes, covering the SDGs that will be reviewed at the 2021 HLPF:
  • Human well-being and capabilities
  • Sustainable and just economies
  • Food systems and nutrition patters

After receiving around 100 submissions from a broad range of organizations throughout Geneva and their international networks, three synthesis reports were drafted that brought together the research submitted and situated this new evidence against the state of the art .

These reports are the first step in a larger process to institutionalize this research-to-practice channel over the long term and bring more knowledge-making bodies into the process, to ensure policy making is informed by relevant, timely, interdisciplinary research.

This task is more important today than ever, as we begin the decade of action to achieve the SDGs in the face of economic, health and environmental crises, typified by the Covid-19 pandemic. Such challenges demand we make use of all the knowledge we have available to us. Carving out a clear path for science to play a central role in policy making is an essential first step.

Purpose and Expected Outcomes

The purpose of the initiative is to ensure that the latest research on the SDGs conducted by organizations in International Geneva, and their global partners, is collected and delivered in a way that contributes to the thematic review segment of the HLPF. The material can further be used by partners to inform and support policy makers and the public. The following outcomes are expected:
  • More comprehensive and higher-quality thematic reviews at the HLPF.
  • Greater visibility for organizations in International Geneva and their partners in the lead-up to and during the HLPF.
  • Greater uptake of evidence in SDG implementation.


The 2021 HLPF reviews progress made towards the following SDGs:
Goal 1: No Poverty
Goal 2: Zero Hunger
Goal 3: Good health and well-being
Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
Goal 10: Reduced inequalities
Goal 12: Responsible production and consumption
Goal 13: Climate action
Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

These SDGs are grouped into three entry points previously defined by the Independent Group of Scientists in their 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report, The Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development: Human well-being and capabilities; Sustainable and just economies; Food systems and nutrition patters. Clustering the SDGs assists decision makers to address multiple goals simultaneously based on current knowledge of the linkages between social and environmental systems. Gender equality, climate action and partnerships are included in all three clusters as they are important to all.

Activities and Outputs

📰 Read the Research and Policy Brief, From Science to Practice: Research and Knowledge to Achieve the SDGs, Maggie Carter

Read the Research Papers
From Science to Practice. An Official Side Event of the 2021 HLPF, 6 July 2021, 13:00-14:30 EST (19:00-20:30 CEST). Virtual event.

Open Consultation, 29 March - 1 April 2021 (Virtual event). Draft thematic reports on Human well-being and capabilities, Sustainable and just economies, and Food systems and nutrition patterns presented and workshopped.

From Science to Practice: The Role of Research in Tackling COVID-19 and Achieving the SDGs, 11 March 2021. Virtual Side Event at the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development for the UNECE Region

Preparation of thematic reports, January-March 2021. Our team synthesized the evidence submitted into thematic reports. They also looked at where the new information stands in relation to the currently understood state-of-the-art knowledge. Does it confirm existing trends, or offer a different picture?

Evidence Boxes (September to December 2020) collected contributions on three key themes for the acceleration and success of progress on the global goals: Human well-being and capabilities; Sustainable and just economies; and Food systems and nutrition patterns. Respondents also shared their experience with science-policy-practice interactions. Many types of evidence were received, from peer-reviewed studies and review articles to case studies and stories, covering the local, national, regional and global levels.

Project Partners

This project is coordinated by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), the Geneva Science Policy Interface (GSPI), the Think Tank Hub, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Switzerland and the SDG Lab, and funded by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

Funding Partner

Project Operational Committee

  • Maggie Carter, UNRISD (Project Co-coordinator)
  • Paul Ladd, UNRISD (Project Coordinator)
  • Andreas Obrecht*, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Switzerland
  • Myriam Pham-Truffert, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Switzerland
  • Nicolas Seidler, Geneva Science-Policy Interface (GSPI)
  • Maxime Stauffer, Geneva Science-Policy Interface (GSPI)
  • Jorge Tamayo, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Switzerland
  • Kali Taylor, SDG Lab
  • Maria Isabelle Wieser, Think Tank Hub Geneva, foraus
  • Samir Yeddes, Mission of Switzerland to the UN in Geneva
*until October 2020

Project Advisory Committee

  • Thomas Biersteker*, The Graduate Institute
  • Petru Dumitriu*, UN Joint Inspection Unit
  • Bernhard Fuhrer, Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS)
  • Nadia Isler, SDG Lab
  • Velibor Jakovleski, The Graduate Institute
  • Ugo Panizza, The Graduate Institute
  • Francesco Pisano, UN Library
  • Raymond Saner, Centre for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development (CSEND)
  • Lichia Yiu, Centre for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development (CSEND)
*until end-2020

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In 2016 and again in 2019 the research community in Geneva held meetings to explore how research can most effectively influence policy and practice, particularly in the context of the SDGs. Read the report from the 2019 conference: From Science to Practice: Strengthening Research Uptake to Achieve the SDGs.