Sustainability Science

Bridging the North-South divide in sustainability

Elsevier Foundation launches program with TWAS, the World Academy of Sciences, for North-South collaboration in sustainability science

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President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and TWAS, Dr. Chun Li Bai, with Elsevier Foundation Program Director Ylann Schemm and TWAS Executive Director Prof. Romain Murenzi celebrate a sustainability-focused 13th General Conference at the closing dinner hosted by the Austrian Academy of Sciences at the Vienna City Hall. (Photo © Foto Weinwurm)From the invention of penicillin to the development of the Internet, science plays a major role in advancing society. In September, representatives from 194 countries convened in New York and signed the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) — a commitment to tackle some of our greatest social and environmental challenges over the next 15 years.

To catalyze an informed dialogue between academics, policymakers and civil society, Elsevier and released their report Sustainability Science in a Global Landscape while hosting an expert panel on that topic. The report maps the global research landscape underpinning the SDGs, analyzing research output, collaboration and interdisciplinary research.

The report points up how rapidly the field of sustainability science is growing, but also revealed a dramatic North-South divide in sustainability science: 76 percent of the research is produced by high-income countries compared to just 2 percent by low-income countries. Experts involved in the report say it’s critical that countries experiencing the toughest challenges in water and food security and climate change be deeply involved in finding the solutions that work best for them.

Download the sustainability science report.During the panel, Prof. Romain Murenzi, the Executive Director of TWAS, The World Academy of Sciences and a key advocate of building scientific capacity and excellence in the developing world, underscored the need to help countries “break out of science poverty” and the importance of building a “global science culture” with greater North-South collaboration.

A new partnership for sustainability science

Prof. Romain Murenzi, PhD, is Executive Director of TWAS, the World Academy of Sciences. (Photo by Alison Bert)Given the Elsevier Foundation’s longstanding collaboration with TWAS and its associated organization, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD), the knowledge of the North-South divide presented a call to action on how best to support deeper involvement in sustainability science by developing countries.

At TWAS’ 26th General Meeting November 18-21, hosted by the Austrian Academy of Sciences and focused on sustainability science, the Elsevier Foundation launched a 2015-18 partnership for “North-South Collaboration in Sustainability.” The 4-year $280,000 grant will provide support for sustainability themes at annual conferences, including travel fellowships for PhDs, postdocs and visiting professors and fellowships throughout the year.

"This grant represents a commitment to continuing and expanding an important collaboration between the Elsevier Foundation and TWAS," Dr. Murenzi said. "We are very grateful to receive this grant, and we are confident that it will produce valuable, positive impacts in advancing the science of sustainability in the developing world."

The Elsevier Foundation-supported food security panel (l to r): Dr. Hans Rudolf Herren, Swiss agronomist/entomologist and recipient of the World Food Prize; TWAS Executive Director Romain Murenzi; Elsevier Foundation Program Director Ylann Schemm; Dr. Moktar Toure, panel chair and VP of the Senegalese Academy of Science, Dr. Michiel Kolman, SVP of Global Academic Relations at Elsevier; and Dr. M. Ajmal Khan, Qatar Shell Professorial Chair for Sustainable Development at Qatar University. (Photo © Foto Weinwurm)Mapping food security

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 795 million people around the world still suffer from hunger and undernourishment on a daily basis, and 98 percent of these people live in developing countries. These were some of the facts presented in Vienna Dr. Moktar Toure, VP of the Senegalese National Academy of Science and long-time World Bank veteran, as he hosted a panel on food security examining the interdisciplinary forces needed to tackle this most urgent SDG issue.

Dr. Michiel Kolman, SVP of Global Academic Relations at Elsevier, kicked off the panel with a macro analysis of the research done into food security from the Sustainability Science in a Global Landscape report. Guiding the audience through the results, he said:Michiel Kolman, PhD, gives a food security presentation at the TWAS General Meeting. (Photo © Foto Weinwurm)

Bibliometrics shed light on where the gaps and strengths are in food security research. By zooming in on key words such as biofuels, land use, agricultural economics, cereals etc., it helps us understand which countries and institutes are deeply specialized and where the collaboration opportunities lie. What we can say is that this field of research is high quality and growing fast and at Elsevier, we’ll do everything we can to foster growth in such a critical area of sustainability.

See Dr. Kolman’s presentation here:

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Ylann SchemmYlann Schemm (@ylannschemm) serves as the Elsevier FoundationProgram Director which, provides partnership grants to advance global health, research and sustainability in developing countries and promote diversity in science. She is also the chair of the communications team for Research4Life, a unique UN-pan publisher partnership to provide free or low cost access to researchers in the developing world. Ylann is based in Amsterdam.

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