The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme contributes in various ways to member universities' efforts to consolidate their initiatives in the field of sustainable development.
Much progress has been made around the world in the field of sustainable development since the publication of Our Common Future in 1987, and since the summits held in Rio (1992 and 2012). The field of sustainable development as a whole, and sustainable development research in particular, has evolved substantially over the past 25 years. The end of the UN Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014) marked the start of a new era, titled 'Sustainability 2.0'. At a time when the UN is stepping up efforts towards pursuing the sustainable development goals, sound research on sustainable development is required more than ever before.
One of the gaps still evident relates to universities' ability to perform high-quality sustainability research. The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme therefore contributes in various ways to member universities's efforts to consolidate their initiatives in the field of sustainable development. For instance:
- By increasing their research income: income from research projects may be increased by means of sustainable development research. Statistics show that sustainable development expertise clustered around research centres or programmes is more successful than ad hoc efforts and research bids made by individuals alone.
- By enhancing institutional research profiles in the field of sustainable development: at present, only a few universities already have an international and authoritative research profile in this field, even though many have great potential to develop it. This potential can be further optimised and increased by means of more coordinated approaches to bidding for and securing national and international funding for interdisciplinary and cross-faculty projects on matters related to sustainable development, and by increasing their visibility.
- By increasing the intake of PhD students: many universities have the potential to be attractive places for PhD students focusing on sustainability research, but at present – for various reasons – do not fully use it. The PhD programme to be led by the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will help realise this potential, and offer the critical mass needed to train a new generation of sustainability experts across the whole spectrum of themes and topics associated with it.
- By increasing publication output: in addition to increasing income and profile-building, the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will help its members achieve more substantial research outputs, which can be translated into the publication of more papers in indexed journals, as well as innovative books and book chapters. The International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education and the newly created World Sustainability Series, the leading book series on the topic, are some of the instruments to be used, as well as wider access to the world's leading journals on the environment and sustainable development matters.
The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will consolidate and further develop the available know-how and profile on sustainable development among its member universities across the world, helping them take full advantage of the many possibilities for institutional consolidation and individual career development which sustainability research offers.
A working programme (2015–2020) for the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme has been prepared and is now under implementation. It will be coordinated by Manchester Metropolitan University (UK), but each member university is autonomous in respect of their individual activities, funding and operations.
The main aim of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme is to establish a platform through which member universities can undertake more research on matters related to sustainable development, according to an agreed-upon work plan and agenda.
The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will ensure that energetic, committed experts at member universities have a sound basis for attracting and undertaking research projects, training PhD students, publishing more in indexed journals, organising high-profile events, working more closely with their peers (a clear requirement in the sustainable development research community) and hence strengthening their personal and institutional profiles.
In addition, the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will strive to develop the ability to leverage organisational resources and maximise the benefits research projects may bring to member universities. The specific aims of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme are as follows:
- Assemble interdisciplinary, cross-faculty teams among its member universities that focus on sustainable development, with a keen interest in bidding for national and international sustainability research projects
- Set-up and maintain a working environment that encourages international cooperation, supports institutional and inter-institutional project development, and hence increases the chances of success in project bidding and acquisition
- Link and engage with the sustainability research community at member universities in the joint training of PhD students and the organisation of specific, strategic events
- Catalyse and facilitate the production of high-quality joint publications in indexed journals, as well as in ground-breaking books and book chapters, in cooperation with well-established publishers
Operationally, the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will develop project proposals which can be submitted to national and international agencies and funding bodies. It will also provide key support in promoting cooperation in the field of sustainable development between the member universities, in a way never seen before.
The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme focuses on sustainable development as a cross-cutting issue and on specific topics central to the international sustainability research agenda. The list of topics includes but is not limited to:
• Sustainable energy production (renewable energy) and use (energy efficiency)
• Sustainable production and consumption
• Sustainable water use and management
• Sustainable waste management
• Sustainable transport
• Sustainable development and climate change (including adaptation and resilience)
• Education for sustainable development and curriculum innovation in sustainable development
• Sustainability in higher education institutions (e.g. campus greening)
Other topics may be added to the list in accordance with the expertise of the member universities and interested colleagues.
Apart from the fact that joining a programme of such high calibre will greatly enhance the profile of member universities, some other key factors which speak for joining the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme are as follows:
- The high level of interest in the topic, which is likely to be maintained in the future
- The large demand-supply gap seen in respect of sustainability research
- The extensive availability of funding to support sustainable development research from public and private bodies
- The existence of ambitious government policies in the field, whose implementation depends at least partly on research
- The broad existence of financing options available in respect of project funding (e.g. as project coordinator, as project partner, as external consultancy, etc.)
- The keen interest from industry, banks and other sectors in the topic
- The opportunity to train PhD students, produce publications and run influential events at member universities
At present, global expenditures on sustainable development research (including the areas outlined under 'Topics') are estimated to be approximately USD 1 billion per year. The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will help unlock substantial funding possibilities for integrated projects on sustainability issues through which, for instance, universities and governments, or universities and industry, may work together.
The founding organisations of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme are Manchester Metropolitan University (UK), where the programme's secretariat is based, and the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany). A Memorandum of Understanding is signed with partner universities (via a letter of commitment) in order to formalise their involvement in the programme. Partner universities can then refer to themselves as members of IUSDRP and can take part in all its activities, organise or co-organise events, and coordinate or be partners in IUSDRP-led projects.
The Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will bring together researchers at partner universities with an interest in sustainable development research and its ramifications. The aim is to reinforce their profile and allow them to take greater advantage of the many benefits this topic offers.
The work of the programme will be overseen by an International Advisory Board composed of some of the world's leading experts on sustainability, who will provide advice, guidance and support the implementation of the programme's activities.
The operational components of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme involve five interrelated core tasks:
- Project bidding and implementation: This is the core element of the programme, where partners will apply and/or co-apply for funding and undertake projects on matters related to sustainable development.
- Publications: The programme will create publishing opportunities in the field of sustainable development, including special issues in indexed journals, the establishment of teams of authors to work on joint papers, and the launching of ground-breaking book projects.
- Training: The programme will seek to unleash the leadership potential of partner universities in terms of training as a whole, and MSc/PhD training in particular, on sustainable development issues. Here emphasis will be given to the provision of training on methods, approaches, strategies and the execution of projects related to sustainable development, at various levels.
- Know-how transfer: The programme will, by means of practical projects, transfer the best available know-how and expertise on sustainable development available in the partner universities to others, helping them advance the cause of sustainability at the institutional level.
- Institutional strengthening: By means of networking, the programme will help build systems and networks that can respond most effectively to emerging funding opportunities, and hence strengthen the member organisations.
A flagship of the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme is the 'World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities' (WSSDU) series, which is the leading event in the field. Organised bi-annually, WSSDU brings together the leading organisations and experts on sustainability in higher education, providing a unique opportunity for information exchange, networking and the documentation of project work and dissemination of results from research projects. This is complemented by the 'World Sustainable Development Teach-In Days' (also a bi-annual event), the use of the World Sustainability Series (published by Springer, one of the world's top-five scientific publishers) to produce high-calibre books, and the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, the world's leading academic journal in the field.
Thanks to its integrative and truly international approach, the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme will achieve effective mobilisation of staff and resources, and use strategic events to attract the attention of scientists, policymakers, community members and media representatives. Ultimately, it will broaden awareness about the partner universities and their sustainable development research capabilities.
The World List of Sustainability Researchers, prepared by the Inter-University Sustainable Development Research Programme (IUSDRP), aims to connect and showcase the scientific profile, areas of interest and academic achievements of sustainability researchers around the world. For data protection reasons, e-mail addresses are not always included, unless explicitly requested. The contact details of all experts can be found by the usual search engines. If you wish to be added to the list, or have any questions, please contact the IUSDRP Team at: iusdrp (@) ls.haw-hamburg.de
Membership in IUSDRP is by invitation only and is free of charge. If you feel your institution shares the philosophy, goals and research interests of IUSDRP, please contact the chairperson to discuss a possible membership.
Walter Leal Filho, Luiza Olim de Sousa, and Rudi Pretorius 2021: Future Prospects of Sustainable Development in Africa; In Leal Filho, W., de Sousa, L. O., Pretorius, R. (eds.) (2021), Sustainable Development in Africa. World Sustainability Series, Springer, Cham. ISBN: 9783030746933
An analysis of the insertion of sustainability elements in undergraduate design courses offered by Brazilian higher education institutions: An exploratory study. Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 272, 1 November 2020, 122733
Sustainable Development Policies as Indicators and Pre-Conditions for Sustainability Efforts at Universities: fact or fiction?, Journal of Sustainability in Higher Educationustainable Development Policies
The integration of social responsibility and sustainability in practice: Exploring attitudes and practices in Higher Education Institutions, Journal of Cleaner Productionhe Integration of Social Responsibility and Sustainability
Walter Leal (BSc, PhD, DSc, DPhil, DEd, DLitt, FSB, FRGS, FLS)
Professor of Environment and Technology
Department of Natural Sciences
Manchester Metropolitan University
Valeria Ruiz Vargas
Education for Sustainable Development Coordinator
Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching – Environment Team
1st Floor, All Saints Building
Manchester M15 6BH