Notes #15

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Sustainable Development at the UN in 2020

The overarching theme for the 2020 session of ECOSOC and the HLPF will be “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.” There will be no special cluster of goals that will be discussed at the 2020 HLPF. See for all relevant events the ECOSOC and ECOSOC System Calendar for 2020

And to prepare, what about the MOOC Strengthening Stakeholder Engagement for the Implementation and Review of the 2030 Agenda (2020 – 1st ed) by UNITAR?

#Flyless and Academic Conferences

Last week, I published a rant about the popular call to #flyless to academic conferences and argue that it is throwing out the baby with the bathwater: It employs a limited understanding of academic conferences, it ignores the operational realities, and there are unintended consequences. My main point:

At a time in which fast progress in science, and the generation of high-quality cutting-edge scientific knowledge is more crucial than ever in order to address the urgent and daunting challenges of sustainability and climate change — and as a matter of fact many other pressing societal problems — we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. If attending a conference is beneficial to the career of a researcher, or adds real value to the advancement of the field of science, than #flyless should not stand in the way of in-person conference attendance!

Stumbled over …

A neat short post on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog on Measuring the impact of social sciences by Ziyad Marar. It summarizes how over the past five years, discussion over the impact of social science research and how it is measured and understood has become increasingly complex, controversial and contested and correctly points out that:

(…) measuring and demonstrating social science research is political. Firstly, in the sense that measurement and the attribution of value can shape research practices themselves, but also in that the value they describe is inherently limited and if misapplied can lead to unintended consequences.

Ziyad Marar


A timely editorial by Marcus Düwell in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, on the Pitfalls of Open Science. Academic institutions are increasingly committing themselves to ‘open science’ principles. At first sight it seems to be self-evident that the ethics-community should embrace those open science principles unconditionally. The author however argues, that some critical reflection is required and highlights five possible pitfalls and problems around open science.

University Cooperation

When I was involved as academic director in ReSET – Governance of Global Environmental Change, I had the chance to observe a wave of university mergers ongoing at that time in Russia. While that process was not entirely motivated by strategic academic considerations, it made sense to me that a University of Refrigeration Technology as stand alone university had to merge. Scientific knowledge production in the 21st century will not happen in tiny subject or disciplinary silos.

In The Netherlands, this need to cooperate structurally between disciplines, faculties, and even universities is intensifying after the announcement of a near merger type of regional and interdisciplinary cooperation between the Erasmus University and the Technical University in Delft. The former rector magnificus of Utrecht University, Bert van der Zwaan, wrote a nice opinion piece (in Dutch) supporting and underscoring the necessity of the near merger idea and proposing similar regional and disciplinary integration of universities.

Recommended reading

  • Bruno Turnheim, Mike Asquith, Frank W. Geels. 2020. Making sustainability transitions research policy-relevant: Challenges at the science-policy interface, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, Volume 34 (116-120 – This Policy brief provides an overview of a recently published report by the European Environment Agency: ‘Sustainability transitions: policy and practice’, and outlines 10 key messages, which concern core processes, stages and change mechanisms, key cross-cutting themes, and governance-related challenges for steering transition processes.


In other news …

#Climate Change#ECOSOC#Europeam Environment Agency (EEA)#Future Earth#HLPF#Impact#Open Science#Postfactual#Research Cooperation#Research Funding#RESET#Russia#Science-Policy#Social Sciences#Stakeholder Engagement#UNITAR#United Nations#University Management