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[vision] What is the most trendy SDGs in research?

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

Mapping research for the Sustainable Development Goals

Elsevier, one of the world's leading publishers of academic journals, has published a report on the trends in research papers on the SDGs. It also shows unexpected trends so I'll talk about them. It's an interesting report overall, so I recommend you to read it ;-)

The SDGs started in 2015, so the time frame for this analysis is five years, and it states that about 4 million research papers were published during that time. I knew it was a lot, but I was still a bit surprised that about 75% of those 4 million, or 3 million research papers, were related to SDG 3 health. Perhaps, because if we strictly follow the definition of the SDGs, fields such as cutting-edge physics and chemistry would not be included, but I guess medical research is generally strong! I was surprised by this because as a researcher in climate change and energy, SDG3 health was considered a relatively new field, and the "new environmental field" had produced enough research papers to account for 75% of the total. At the same time, the growth rate of SDG3 research paper over the past five years is 0.9%, which is the lowest among the SDGs. Since absolute publication numbers so huge, even if the growth rate is less than 1%, there are probably more papers than the other SDGs, but there is no significant movement in the area of growth.

Compared to SDG 3, although they are too small to compare, the second and third most published areas are energy (number 7) and climate change (number 13), and these two areas have the highest growth rates. Climate change is cited 34.5% more often than the other SDGs, indicating that it will continue to receive more attention. Also, more than half of the papers on climate change are done through international collaborations. I've been involved in four European Union's Horizon2020 research projects since 2016, and the number of universities and research institutions involved is over 100, and the number of countries involved is probably over 30. I think this not only shows that climate change is an international issue, but also that since many researchers are involved, it is more likely to be seen and cited by many people.

Academic journals and papers are quantified by the impact factor depending on the number of citations they receive and how they are cited. According to the impact factor, the field of clean energy in SDG 7 is 49% more impactful than the average. I think this is another evidence that clean energy, including renewable energy, is getting more attention. Another interesting thing to note is that even though clean energy is a field that is attracting a lot of attention, it is also the field where scientists in developing countries are making the least contribution. This fact makes me think that I need to continue writing papers on clean energy and climate change from Indonesia.

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