Session 605


How can research be more effectively translated into policy and practice in order to tackle the interlinkages—and tensions—between the Sustainable Development Goals related to climate change, conflict, health, and education? And how might top research funders lead the way? This program addressed a critical challenge facing researchers and decision-makers worldwide.

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5bn fund established by the UK Government to help UK researchers work in partnership with researchers in developing countries to make significant progress against the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Together with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a key GCRF partner, Salzburg Global Seminar convened a global gathering of GCRF and other researchers, policymakers, humanitarian and development agencies, and philanthropic foundations. The program aimed to promote dialogue that spans research, policy and practice, incorporates representative voices in the research agenda-setting process, and examined how research for development is actually conducted, communicated, and translated into impact. An essential prerequisite for its success was the active participation of senior figures in research and policy from developing countries.

The multiple and multidimensional interlinkages and tensions between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in climate change, conflict, health, and education present many examples of intractable development challenges. For example, quality education (SDG 4) greatly improves health and wellbeing (SDG 3), but the increased consumption that comes as populations aspire to Western lifestyles may impact negatively on pollution and climate change, locally and globally. Similarly, reducing conflict may have benefits for employment and economic growth, but these cannot be sustained unless inequalities in education and access to health care are also addressed. Without holistic action for equality and social justice, peace may be short-lived or conflict may continue by other means.

Participant Profile

Salzburg Global Seminar’s sessions seek to bring together cross-sector and cross-generational change-makers from across the globe to tackle complex challenges.

For this session, participants came together on equal terms to explore the opportunities, challenges, and trade-offs involved in developing interdisciplinary approaches to the implementation of selected SDGs. 

To ensure diversity and inclusiveness, the program prioritized participation of researchers and policymakers from the Global South.

International humanitarian and development agencies, philanthropic foundations and relevant United Nations divisions also participated, together with senior leaders from UKRI’s GCRF program team, UK Government partners, and Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators from universities in the United Kingdom and partner countries.

Program Format

This high-level program convened around 65 thought-leaders and change-makers from different regions, sectors, and disciplines at Schloss Leopoldskron, home of Salzburg Global Seminar.

Through a series of highly interactive elements, participants:

  • Mapped the interlinkages and tensions between SDGs relating to climate change, conflict, health, and education.
  • Built on this analysis and discussed how best to translate into policy and practice cutting-edge GCRF and other research relating to SDGs in climate change, conflict, health, and education. 
  • Identified practical strategies to communicate complexity and to shape evidence-based policy to address the SDGs relating to climate change, conflict, health, and education.


Key Questions

Participants engaged in cross-cutting discussions and hands-on exercises to advance solutions to the following questions:

  • What are the interlinkages and tensions between SDGs in climate change, conflict, health, and education, and which are particularly resistant to change?
  • What do the challenges of climate change, conflict, health, and education look like from the perspective of researchers, policy-makers, and agencies in developing countries?
  • What potential solutions could the best GCRF or other research suggest to make progress against SDGs in climate change, conflict, health, and education?
  • How can we better communicate the complexity of the challenges around climate change, conflict, health, and education and shape evidence-based policy and practice?
  • What research and policy gaps exist and how should these be addressed in future GCRF research, building capacity in both developed and developing countries?


Outcomes and Impact

Through the program and in the weeks following, participants and staff will co-create the a number of products to disseminate their learnings: 


  • A “Salzburg Statement” will be jointly drafted to respond concisely to the Key Questions and will serve as a call to action to help participants personally as well as their institutions and communities. 
  • A series of Twitter debates will be launched following the program to continue online engagement on a monthly basis around key questions raised through the program.
  • A series of webinars and podcasts will discuss and disseminate the Salzburg Statement and multiply its impact in different settings. 
  • A report will subsequently be published summarizing the program as well as highlights from the Twitter and webinar debates that follow it.



Online Library

Africa Beyond 2030: Leveraging Knowledge and Innovation to Secure Sustainable Development Goals. African Academy of Sciences (AAS), 2018. 

Alex Edwards and Natalie Ross, “From Global Goals to Local Impact.Council on Foundations, 2016.

Benjamin Apraku Gyampoh (February 9, 2018). “The challenges of interdisciplinarity: Insights from a research programme on climate change” [Blog].

Chaitanya Kanuri, Aromar Revi, Jessica Espey & Holger Kuhle, “Getting Started with the SDGs in Cities.” UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, 2016.

Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: 5th Assessment Review, Working Group II Summary for Policy MakersIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Clive Barnett and Susan Parnell, “Ideas, implementation and indicators: epistemologies of the post-2015 urban agenda.Environment and Urbanization. 28(1): 87 – 98, 2016.

DFID Research [Medium]. Department for International Development.

DFID Research [Twitter]. Department for International Development.

Engaging Philanthropy in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Lessons Learned and Ways Forward. SDG Philanthropy Platform, September 2015.

Katie Peters, Lara Langston, Thomas Tanner and Aditya Bahadur, “‘Resilience’ across the post-2015 frameworks: towards coherence?” Overseas Development Institute, November 2016.

Keith Shepherd, Douglas Hubbard, Norman Fenton, Karl Claxton, Eike Luedeling& Jan de Leeuw, “Policy: Development goals should enable decision-making.Nature. 523(7559): 152-154, 2015.

Lauren Bradford (December 15, 2017). “The Role of Philanthropy in Conflict Prevention: 15 Takeaways” [Blog].

Lauren Bradford and Larry McGill (October 25, 2017). “Finally! A Global (Data) Language!” [Blog].

Lauren Bradford and Natalie Ross, “Ending American poverty: the SDGs in the global north.Alliance. 21(2), June 2016.

Marco Springmann, Daniel Mason-D’Croz, Sherman Robinson, Tara Garnett, H Charles J Godfray, Douglas Gollin, Mike Rayner, Paola Ballon and Peter Scarborough, “Global and regional health effects of future food production under climate change.The Lancet. 2016.

Medical Research Council (13 March, 2018). “Scientists study how environmental and social change affects the spread of infection.” 

Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict. United Nations; World Bank, 2018.

Peter Calthorpe (April 2017). 7 Principles for Building Better Cities [TED Talk]. 

The impact of climate change on the achievement of the post-2015 sustainable development goals. Department for International Development, January 2015.

Tim Wheeler and Joachim von Braun, “Climate Change Impacts on Global Food Security.Science. 341(6145): 508-513, 2013.

Topic Guide: Climate change and social development. Department for International Development, January 2016.

Topic Guide: Education, climate and environment. Department for International Development, January 2015.

Úrsula Oswald Spring, “Can Health be Securitized?Global Bioethics. 24: 25-34, 2011.



The Global Challenges Research Fund forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment and aims to address the problems faced by developing countries through:

  • Challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research conducted by excellent researchers in the UK and developing countries, working in partnership
  • Strengthening capacity for research and innovation within both the UK and developing countries
  • Providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need.

The most significant GCRF investments to-date, Interdisciplinary Research Hubs to Address Intractable Challenges Faced by Developing Countries, will be launched by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in late 2018, with funding of £8-20m for each of the 10-12 Hubs. Intractable development challenges are multidimensional and complex challenges that have proven to be resistant to change, prone to fragmented responses and which cannot be solved from one sectoral or disciplinary perspective.

UKRI brings together the seven UK Research Councils, Innovate UK, and Research England within a single strategic research and innovation funding body. It is responsible for over £6 billion per annum in research and innovation funding and is tasked with promoting multi- and inter-disciplinary research, providing a unified voice for the UK’s research and innovation system, and creating enabling improved collaboration between businesses and researchers and better alignment of research outputs with business needs.