White Paper on First Summit on Science and Technology Enablement for the Sustainable Development Goals

Summit proposes new framework of collaborations to solve global issues

NEW YORK, February 28, 2017 – Smartphone technology, research incentives, massive collaboration between researchers in the hard and social sciences, as well as public–private partnerships, are some of the preliminary solutions for reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. These are the key findings of a white paper released today by the New York Academy of Sciences.

The white paper title "Summit on Science and Technology Enablement for the Sustainable Development Goals" summarizes the recent Summit on Science and Technology Enablement for the Sustainable Development Goals recently held with the encouragement and support of the United Nations (UN) at the Academy headquarters in New York City. The SDGs, adopted by the UN in 2015 as part of their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, are 17 Global Goals and 169 specific targets aimed at "saving the planet and its people and forging peaceful, just societies."

With over 100 leaders in attendance from industry, academia, NGOs, UN organizations and Member States the conference was structured along four streams—Early Childhood Development (ECD), People in Crisis, Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP), and Urbanization. Members of each stream identified knowledge gaps and provided recommendations to bridge these gaps that impede fuller implementation of the SDGs.

While Early Childhood Development is a foundation for sustainable development, more than 250 million children under the age of five fail to reach their developmental potential due to adversity. A major challenge facing ECD experts is how to reach these children. Current field metrics and assessment techniques are lacking and researchers are reliant on proxy measures. Attendees concluded that the biggest issue in promoting ECD is the gap between those working in the field and those monitoring the children's progress. While the gap could be partially closed by improving the use of technology in the collection of ECD data, the group concluded that greater focus on implementation research on interventions promoting ECD is also necessary.

With over 60 million refugees around the world—more than at any time since the Second World War—coordinating refugees and displaced populations is more important than ever. Participants in the second stream acknowledged the major gap is a lack of demographic information on refugees. Although the technological mechanisms and tools are available, organizations have different methods of collection. This makes collaboration in crisis situations more difficult. Attendees called for impact incentives in both research and funding, development of prevention methods for at-risk populations, and holistic and systemic approaches that analyze the impact of collaborative responses.

The third stream addressed sustainable consumption and production (SCP). Experts define idealized sustainable production as a set of closed-loop systems like a manufacturing plant that recycles all matter and energy to make its products. Under the SDG guidelines, the sustainable process must be environmentally, economically, politically, and socially sustainable. This calls for massive collaboration between researchers in the hard sciences and social sciences to address gaps in production methods, use of technology, reckoning of cost for future generations, and improvements in understanding consumer motivations.

The final stream determined that the central challenge of urbanization is how to make cities livable. Livability was defined as whether individuals in a city receive the benefits of living in the city. To make cities livable for all people they suggested public–private partnerships to set priorities in implementing new solutions under resource constraints. However, as not all public-private partnerships are created equal, city officials must also have access to the tools that would allow them to properly assess the partnership and measure the derived benefits.

"Science and technology are essential to achieving the SDGs," said Jennifer Costley, Director of Physical Sciences, Sustainability & Engineering at the New York Academy of Sciences and the paper's author. "They cannot be achieved without a long-term collaborative effort between scientists and specialists from a variety of backgrounds. The Summit was the first step in collective action for the scientific community in surmounting these global challenges."


About the New York Academy of Sciences

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 25,000 members around the world, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at www.nyas.org.

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