World's science academies will support the Sustainable Development Goals!

This week saw the publication of an InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) report designed to help the global science community, and in particular the world’s science academies, support the SDGs more effectively and with more urgency.

This report titled, ‘Improving Scientific Input to Global Policymaking,’ has been prepared for a critical moment in the UN’s 2030 Agenda, the global blueprint for the economic, social and environmental development of our planet. In September 2019, four years into this 15-year framework, world leaders will review progress on the implementation of its 17 SDGs and set a course for the next review phase, which will take the world beyond the halfway mark. Assessments of progress in 2018 made it clear that no country is on track to meet all of the SDGs by 2030, and countries need to step up their efforts and act fast.

There is no doubt, either, about the need for the global science community to play a stronger role. Many targets and indicators for the SDGs are difficult to measure, weak or absent altogether, making accurate monitoring of progress challenging; there are still major data gaps and a lack of integrated data, especially in low and middle-income countries; and little is understood about the interactions (synergies and trade-offs) between the 17 Goals and those interactions’ effects on policy interventions.

There is an urgent need to bridge the gap between knowledge production and knowledge use.

In order to engage the science community in effectively supporting SDG implementation, there must be a genuine desire from the policymaking community to do so too. For UN agencies serving, and trying to satisfy, their national and regional constituencies, this is undoubtedly challenging. The report encourages the UN and its agencies to foster a culture of evidence-informed policymaking, standardizing rigour and review across its work, so that policy design, implementation and review are robust.

Mobilizing national science academies and their regional and global networks will be an ongoing effort considering global changes and the established nature of these academic communities. But pockets of good practice have been seeded in different parts of the world. At the very least, the global science community will be in a better place to serve the next set of global goals that will be negotiated, and to ensure that they will be truly evidence-based and measurable.