Report Launch: Assessing Universities’ Contributions to Sustainable Development Goals: An example from Tongji University on SDG-related research performance

On May 20, 2022, on the occasion of the 20 years’ anniversary of UNEP-Tongji University Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development (IESD), Tongji University jointly issued a report named Assessing Universities’ Contributions to Sustainable Development Goals:An example from Tongji University on SDG-related research performance with Elsevier. This report reviews the research performance of Tongji University in the past 20 years, with a focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report also proposes 115 trending research topics for accelerating the sustainable development process.

During the launching event, LI Yongzhi, Deputy Director of Shanghai Municipal Education Commission, LI Lin, Managing Director of Elsevier Greater China, LYU Peiming, Executive Vice President of Tongji University attended and delivered remarks. LYU Peiming and LI Lin jointly issued the report. The event was moderated by Lou Yongqi, Vice President of Tongji University.

Sheng Fulai, Senior Economist of United Nations Environment Programme, Peter Gilruth, World Agroforestry Centre Senior Policy Advisor, Iain Patton, Higher Education Network Advisor of UN Youth and Education Alliance (YEA!), Wang Chongjie, Chairman of China Green University Network (CGUN), the representatives of the Alliance of Environment Deans, representatives of Yangtze River Delta Sustainable Development University Alliance, also attended the launching event.  

This report presents bibliometric data and analyses on SDG-related research output of Tongji University over the past two decades (2002–2021), and benchmarks Tongji University’s research performance against that of the world, the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, and China, as introduced by Professor Wu Jiang, Dean of IESD.

According to the report, Tongji University’s SDG research output has a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24%, exceeding that of the world, the APAC region, and China. Moreover, Tongji University’s share of SDG-related publications grew from 13% of its overall research output in 2002 to 38% in 2021, indicating the great focus on SDG research for Tongji University. As measured by the field-weighted citation impact (FWCI), the scholarly impact of Tongji University’s SDG research maintained a strong growth trend. 19% of Tongji’s total SDG research outputs were highly cited publications (in the top 10% most cited) for the study period, a share higher than that of the world, APAC, or China. Moreover, Tongji’s share of internationally collaborative SDG publications increased dramatically, from only 15% on average in 2002–2011 to 27% in 2012–2021. This growth led to a higher level of international collaboration than the world for Tongji University’s research in all the SDGs.

Field-weighted citation impact (FWCI) of publications per SDG for Tongji, China, APAC, and the world, 2002–2021. Source: Scopus

This report also reveals that Tongji University was active in SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), with a much higher relative activity level against the world. Moreover, Tongji University was ranked among the global top three institutions for SDG 11, and ninth globally for SDG 6 by research output in the study period.

Research output per SDG for Tongji, and its share of total SDG output, compared against the world, 2002–2021. (Coloured bars represent the logarithmic shares of each SDG research out of total SDG output for Tongji, grey bars represent that of the world.) Source: Scopus

To encourage universities and research institutions to focus on sustainable development and further explore ways to achieve the SDGs, this report also issued 115 trending research topics, which were based on the trending of SDG-related researches and screened by experts, accelerating the process of global sustainable development. These topics cover all UN SDGs, especially SDG 3, SDG 7, and SDG 9, which attracted the most attention from the global academic community.

The 115 trending research topics includes hot scientific research topics such as the mechanism and treatment of cancer and epidemic viruses, integrated energy systems balancing energy consumption and supply, the development of new materials and novel processing techniques. Interdisciplinary research and academic entrepreneurship are also covered.