Mobilising Swedish social science research on sustainability

An evaluation of Swedish social science research on sustainability

Swedish social science research in the field of sustainable development has a lot to offer international research and society. External funding in the field has quadrupled in the past ten years, but new ideas and bold initiatives along with commitment from all participants are required to tap the full potential of the research. These were the findings of the international panel that evaluated Swedish social science research on sustainable development for 1998-2008.

The panel sees an increase in funding and the number of doctoral candidates, which is positive, and also sees a trend toward more interdisciplinary research. It also notes a rapid increase in social science research on the climate, the ecosystem, environmental economics and environmental policy tools. However, there are several tensions in the research field which can threaten its potential, according to the panel. The scientific perspective can make it difficult to identify key social and economic research questions. Conservative forms of funding and short-term requirements for immediate application of the findings provide far too little space for new research ideas. Career structures at universities and lacking dialogue between researchers and practitioners can also pose a threat to the field’s progress. The panel recommends a clear commitment from all participants and thinks that there needs to be more space for new ideas and bold initiatives.

The Swedish Research Council Formas, the Swedish Energy Agency, Mistra, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation and the Swedish Research Council are responsible for the evaluation. The panel consisted of prominent researchers and representatives of research users from India, the US and Europe, led by Professor Karen O´Brien from Oslo University and it conducted an independent examination of the research area.

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