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How librarians can use SDG reports to bolster institutions’ rankings

August 30, 2022 | 9 min read

By Linda Willems, Doyeon Kim

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Librarian, Doyeon Kim, supports her institution’s SDG efforts

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We conducted an interview with Doyeon Kim, a librarian at UNIST in Uslan, South Korea to learn more about her work in research performance as it relates to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Her analysis of her institution's research contributions can serve as a model to create your own report.

1. Please tell us a little bit about your background and your current role at UNIST.

Hello, my name is Doyeon Kim and I’m a librarian at UNIST (Uslan National Institute of Science and Technology). I majored in Library and Information Science at university and received a master’s degree, including doing a thesis on the statistical analysis of the usage of electronic journals. I’ve been working at UNIST Library for about 9 years and have been mainly responsible for the subscription and service of electronic materials (journals and databases). Since 2020, I have been in charge of the management and analysis of research performance. This has involved establishing institutional thesis performance, analyzing various research performances and supporting faculty performance evaluation.

2. What is the approach to sustainable development in Korea? Is it seen as an important topic?

I believe that Korea is establishing a long-term plan to implement SDGs, and reviewing its impact on the 17 SDGs. According to a press releaseopens in new tab/window in 2022 regarding Korea’s implementation of SDGs, COVID-19 impacted several goals including Quality Education, No Poverty, and Clean Water and Sanitation. It was also decided that transformational efforts were necessary to respond to the climate crisis, specifically greenhouse gases, forests and energy fields. As a result, the green transformation policies for carbon neutrality and SDGs are likely to be more actively established, and the relevant research is likely to increase in universities.

3. When did you become involved with the UN SDGs?

Since 2016, UNIST Library has been preparing a report on performance analysis of institutional research annually. The report analyzes the performance of the previous year’s journal papers of full-time professors against the research performance of the top universities according to Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, at home and abroad, to predict the research performance of the institute in future rankings. Each year, we also look at specific topics to analyze when looking at the research papers. While thinking over the topic for the analysis report in 2020, my manager suggested SDGs, which led me to learn about SDGs and THE Impact Rankings. (My manager probably found out that the SDGs analysis function would be added to SciVal through the mailing service of Elsevier Korea.)

huge sign of UNIST university

UNIST university

4. Can you talk about the SDG report and what it contains?

UNIST has published excellent research performance reports since its establishment, and proved the quality of its research, but had never evaluated the social impact of UNIST’s research. The purpose of the analysis is to evaluate UNIST’s social contribution based on its research. In other words, we want to evaluate our level of success in meeting the vision of the institute: “World Leading University to Advance Science and Technology for the Prosperity of Humankind,” by analyzing UNIST’s research performance based on the UN’s SDGs. We also wanted to identify the strong research areas that related to SDGs in order to know which data should be submitted if UNIST enters THE Impact Rankings based on SDGs. The analysis is divided into three parts, which were approached in stages:

  • Global research performance trends in categories of SDG (2014–2019)

  • UNIST’s research performance in the categories of SDG (2014–2019)

  • Analysis of UNIST’s research performance on two specific SDGs where UNIST is strong (2014–2019)

  • Including comparisons with the top universities of THE Impact Rankings, at home and abroad, in the relevant SDG categories.

Doyeon’s Advice for using SciVal’s SDG analysis function

Since SciVal’s SDG analysis function was how I first encountered SDGs, I used the method of analyzing indicators by re-extracting global and institutional performance based on SDG-related data set up in SciVal, or data extracted and imported based on query browser per SDG. The process of extracting UNIST's—and other domestic and foreign universities’—specific SDG research performance indicators was conducted as follows:

  • Start at Overview and select the Institutions

  • Select Published tab and click by SDG

  • Find the number of Scholarly outputs and Field-Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) of the selected institution

  • You can use each publications of institutions to save the Publication Set as Institution SDG#

  • You can save the articles of each SDG# as Publication set and compare to other institutions` set at Benchmarking module

5. How has your report been received by your institution? Has the report also had any impact outside of UNIST?

The institute’s research performance analysis report including the SDG analysis were provided to department directors including the president, and the original report was distributed to all departments within the institute. Recently, SDGs have been attracting public attention both at home and abroad, even the band BTS gave an address on international cooperation to achieve SDGs at the UN General Assembly. However, when I wrote the report in 2020, not many people even knew about the concept of SDGs (I didn’t know either). There was not much response internally back then, but there was external interest. For instance, one library made inquiries about the analysis after the ranking announcement due to the correlation between SDG analysis and THE Impact Rankings. As the international interest in SDGs increases, I believe there will be an internal change within the institute.

6. Can you explain UNIST’s involvement with Times Higher Education Impact Rankings – how you are meeting their requirements, and how you are performing in the rankings? 

I believe the biggest reason why universities focus on SDGs is because of THE Impact Rankings. UNIST currently entered THE World University Rankings, but is not yet ready for THE Impact Rankings. However, as the interest in SDGs is gradually increasing both domestically and abroad, there is a possibility of entry into THE Impact Rankings in the future. For entry, we will include the comparison of the research performance with THE Impact Ranking’s top institutions for particular SDGs, which are strong at UNIST, as one part of the institutional research performance analysis report.

Field-weighted citation impact of SDG 7 and 13 for UNIST research.

Field-weighted citation impact of SDG 7 and 13 for UNIST research.

7. When you were looking at UNIST’s sustainable development activities, did you come across anything that surprised you? For example, areas of work that you were unfamiliar with, or high performance that you were previously unaware of?

There are more ongoing UNIST projects on carbon neutrality than I thought. The current university president, who was newly inaugurated in 2019, has organized various strategies to make UNIST leap from Fast Follower to First Mover regarding innovation. Carbon neutrality is the field where UNIST is most likely to become the First Mover in the future, which corresponds to the implementation of SDGs. I hope that the Carbon Neutral Institute will be a starting point for developing carbon neutrality and more professional and essential research will emerge. I also hope to become part of the process as one of the members of the institute.

8. What difference has working with the UN SDGs made to your institution? 

Rather than pursuing a project on the individual- or institution-level, I believe UNIST should promote projects and work with outside partners on projects that match SDG trends. For example, UNIST is actively promoting the university-industry cooperation with local industries based on leading research in carbon neutrality. It has global echnology in core fields of carbon neutrality, such as secondary batteries, hydrogen and carbon capture and utilization (CCU), and has the largest performance scale of relevant R&D among the four major scientific institutes in Korea. The book titled Carbon Neutral: Technology to Reconcile with the Earth, which deals with the current research and alternatives of institutes to realize carbon neutral, was published in 2021, mainly by our faculty. In the second half of 2022, the Carbon Neutral Institute is expected to be established to foster innovative talents in carbon neutral technology and to promote empirical research on industrial sites, and graduate courses will be opened. I personally believe that the institute’s efforts and policies for realizing carbon neutrality are in line with the SDGs, and that all my work as a member of the institute will be incorporated into the institute’s mission.

9. There may be librarians out there who are cautious about getting involved with the SDGs. Would you recommend participating with SDGs?

First of all, I do not think that participating in SDGs is extremely difficult or grandiose. An easy way to get involved is to organize SDG-specific recommended books by field into a collection or introduce related papers or leading journals. You can compare and analyze the performance of your institution and other competitors using SciVal’s SDG analysis function, or you can reorganize your institution’s article output by applying SDGs to any relevant research, which is already provided by many publishers. Universities are obligated to contribute to society for the public interest including implementing excellent research, and librarians working in university libraries should participate in any way to fulfill the university obligations. I believe that applying the concept of SDGs in daily work is the easiest and most effective way for librarians to approach SDGs, and, furthermore, the library can contribute to increasing the social influence of the own university.

10. During your work with the SDGs, are there any lessons that you have learned that you can share with other librarians?

I first learned about SDGs and THE Impact Rankings while conducting SDGs analysis in 2020, and it took a considerable amount of time to organize each concept since it was new to me. However, acquiring relevant concepts was clearly an advantage in the process of performing other tasks in the future, and it was personally rewarding to be able to assist the institution by sharing related data, report templates and analysis methods.


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Linda Willems

Freelance writer and owner

Blue Lime Communications

Read more about Linda Willems
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Doyeon Kim