How does my work contribute to the SDGs?

Geothermal Power Plant in Iceland

A question we get asked a lot by researchers before they join our Global Academy is how their own research can possibly be relevant to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Researchers look at the Global Goals (as they are sometimes called) and see that they relate to poverty, equality and improving the environment (both physical and social) to provide the conditions for all life to flourish.

Many researchers, whether they work in sciences, humanities, or the arts can’t immediately see how their specific work fits into the SDG framework of the 17 Goals, and their underlying 169 targets. 

I want to recommend to any researcher asking that question to read this blog/interview in full: The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the ‘Decade of Action’.  It’s by Joel Gill (@JoelCGill), a geoscientist working at the British Geological Survey, Director of the charity Geology for Global Development, and a member of the Global Academy.  It is clear from the blog that Joel sees a lot of his fellow geoscientists facing that same question of the relevance of their research to the SDGs, and sets out to put their work into a SDG framework.  To quote Joel, “The SDGs are ‘science intensive’ and when you explore the targets in more detail, it is clear there is a lot the geoscience community can contribute”.

Here are a couple of the key points made by Joel.

Firstly, the need for local action, even though the SDGs themselves tend to be presented on Global Scale, and how geoscientists might contribute:

“Local action is therefore about ‘embedding the needed transitions in the policies, budgets, institutions and regulatory frameworks of governments, cities and local authorities’.

Research into the geothermal potential of a particular region, for example, could then inform planning tools and incentives that encourage greater use of geothermal energy to heat homes – contributing to SDG 7 (clean and affordable energy), SDG 11 (sustainable cities) and SDG 13 (climate action)”.

For Joel it is all about highlighting the connections to geoscience.

Secondly, there are clearly SDGs where the work of the geoscientists needs to be thought of in a different way to make a contribution to overall achievement.  Joel cites an excellent example

“…there are also targets where geoscientists must take responsibility in their own spheres of influence for promoting cultural change. For example, ensuring we meet the full ambitions of the Gender Equality goal (SDG 5) will require action from all sectors and disciplines. The engineering, political science or visual arts communities won’t take responsibility for championing SDG 5 in geoscience! We need to champion and support excellent initiatives, such as Girls into Geoscience, which are supporting greater equality and inclusion”. 

Here, the key message is that all research disciplines have a part to play, but also a level of responsibility beyond their own day-to-day work.

The full blog is a masterclass in how to relate your own work to the SDGs, and perhaps think about it in a new way.  Here at we see this ‘translation’ to help researchers appreciate their own role as one of the keys to success in delivering the Global Goals for the world by 2030.

Steve Fairman

Steve Fairman

Steve contributes across a range of Global Academy activities drawing on wide experience of change management and leadership skills. He makes excellent coffee for others in the team.