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Research conference 2015

The Interface between Sustainability Research and Policy

26-27 January 2015

Our 2015 Global Sustainability Institute Conference brought together leaders from academia, business, government, NGOs and beyond to discuss the interface between sustainability research and public policy and practice.

Today's researchers are judged not only on the academic quality of their work but upon the 'impact' of their research on the real world. Carbon emissions, biodiversity, economic systems, behaviours and practices are being modelled, mapped, observed and studied in an attempt to both understand and influence the real world. But how successful has it been in driving change?

Conference theme

The conference was an invitation to challenge the status quo, to explore how research can contribute to meaningful steps towards a sustainable future and to discuss the role of the researcher in sustainable policy development.

Five years on from the financial and economic crisis the world economy is still weak, and exposed to systemic risks. Global economic growth may be undermining its own foundations through its impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity and the climate, and the increasing cost of extracting and exploiting scarce natural resources. These challenges are complex and the effects of decisions are highly uncertain.

Global carbon emissions continue to rise, the Earth overshoot day occurs earlier each year, biodiversity is vanishing at a rate comparable to previous mass extinctions and resource-linked conflict is on the rise. The ultimate challenge of translating knowledge to action requires immediate attention.

Sustainability research often aims to provide the robust evidence base of risks and opportunities to achieving future global prosperity. However, the nature of the relationship between the research community and policy makers continues to be debated. In a landscape characterised by deep uncertainty and high impact low probability events, the importance of well communicated research is rising up the agenda.

2015 has been a seminal year for the sustainability agenda; events such as the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2015, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Paris, the agreement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the UK general election offered an opportunity for national and international leaders to progress sustainable policies. Our conference explored the role of the researcher in politics of sustainability in 2015.