This paper addresses the important question of how national research systems can support the
implementation of the United Nations 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) set out in the 2030
agenda. Much attention on this topic has so far coalesced around understanding and measuring
possible synergies and trade-offs that emerge in the SDGs. We contribute to this discussion by arguing
that it is necessary to move from a focus on system interaction towards system transformation. A
conceptual approach is presented based on the notion that research that “builds bridges” between
science and technology and the social and environmental pillars of sustainable development can more
fully support simultaneous achievement of the SDGs and thus be transformational. This proposition is
put to the test empirically through a study of the Mexican research system using methods from
bibliometrics and social network analysis. Our results can help to provide a diagnostic of how research
systems are approaching SDGs and where potential exists for transformative research.

Key Words: Sustainable Development Goals, Mexico, Poverty, Inequality, Social Network Analysis,
Triad, Co-bibliography, Transformation.

Copyright © 2021 Johan Schot