Consensus and dissensus in ‘mappings’ of science for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Ismael Rafols, Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), Leiden University and Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex

The shift in R&D goals towards the SDGs is driving demand for new S&T indicators…

The shift in S&T policy from a focus on research quality (or ‘excellence’) towards societal impact has led to a demand for new S&T indicators that capture the contributions of research to society, in particular those aligned with SDGs. The use of the new ‘impact’ indicators would help monitoring if (and which) research organisations are aligning their research towards certain SDGs.

Responding to these demands, data providers, consultancies and university analysts are rapidly developing methods to map projects or publications related to specific SDGs. These ‘mappings’ do not analyse the actual impact of research, but hope to capture instead if research is directed towards problems or technologies that can potentially contribute to improving sustainability and wellbeing.