Early View Article - Academic Research on the 2030 Agenda: Challenges of a Transdisciplinary Field of Study

Academic Research on the 2030 Agenda: Challenges of a Transdisciplinary Field of Study

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the scope to shift the world on to a resilient path focused on promoting sustainable development leaving no one behind. Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, academic research on the topic has blossomed. However, most academic research has focused on specific topics within the Agenda, with a bias towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) settled on it. The aim of this study is to contribute to the comprehension and delimitation of the 2030 Agenda as a field of study. To do so, we draw upon bibliometric techniques to undertake a sound analysis of the academic and thematic basis of the discipline, by analyzing the academic research on the Agenda to date, composed by 656 research papers. The results highlight the transdisciplinary nature of the 2030 Agenda, which has gathered attention from a wide range of disciplines and authors, especially in the sustainability and green sciences. At the same time, it points out some weaknesses in the development of a deeper comprehension of the 2030 Agenda from disciplines such as political and international sciences, which could hinder its governance, efficacy and impact.

Policy Implications

  • A greater emphasis on transversal disciplines such as policy and governance will be crucial for a deeper comprehension of the 2030 Agenda.
  • Researchers on political, development, and international studies must analyze the 2030 Agenda holistically. The combination of sectoral topics with transdisciplinary approaches is key to finding critical pathways to success. This is especially relevant today as the COVID‐19 has shown the limitations in the design of the Agenda.
  • Funding bodies and agencies should prioritize research projects addressed to specific SDGs, but only when designed under the guiding principles of the 2030 Agenda.
  • The United Nations should reinforce the interlinkages between the SDGs, but also their embeddedness within the 2030 Agenda framework when advocating and raising awareness about their importance.


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