Uncovering Utrecht University’s transformative potential

Together with Oscar Romero Goyeneche and other colleagues of the Utrecht University Centre for Global Challenges (UGLOBE), Johan Schot has initiated a novel project that strives to unlock the transformative potential of Utrecht University research for addressing the Sustainable Development Goals.

By means of mapping synergies and knowledge communities within research conducted on the SDGs, UGlobe’ s research results will support the integration of interdisciplinary knowledge and reveal opportunities to progress transformative change. Taking a systemic approach, the project is going beyond an analysis of individual goals, but engages in a discussion of the types of interactions taking place in the research system, between which areas and what sort of research is more likely to be a catalyst for transformation. Thereby, new mechanisms for reflecting on SDG research conducted at Utrecht University will be proposed.

The conceptual approach of this project is based on the notion that research which “builds bridges” between science and technology and the social and environmental pillars of sustainable development can facilitate addressing a variety of SDGs simultaneously. Hereby, the research impact and transformative potential is being enhanced. The project applies a mixed methods approach. Firstly, research communities that integrate various SDGs are identified through conducting a Bibliometric Network Analysis using relevant data bases such as Web of Science. And secondly, researchers who are part of the identified research communities are interviewed and a number of exploratory workshops are organised. This qualitative part of the methodology allows for a characterisation of the bottom-up strategies to integrate and enable SDG research at Utrecht University. The mapping of such strategies will contribute to the reflexive capacities of research groups and individual and hence enable long-term transformations of the way SDG research is conducted at Utrecht University.

In the years to come, Utrecht University aims to use the SDGs as an instrument to identify challenges and potential solutions, with its education and research aimed at contributing to enhance knowledge of all 17 SDGs. The methodology and results of UGLOBE’ s research project can facilitate reaching this ambition and support Utrecht University in becoming a “transformative university”.  

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