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Feb 9, 2024

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Bridging Science and Society: OpenAIRE's Strategic SDG Integration

Feb 9, 2024

One of the key objectives of Open Science is to direct research toward the betterment of society by aligning with societal goals through its inclusive and participatory nature. Integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into OpenAIRE's infrastructure is pivotal in achieving this. This strategic move enables the monitoring, evaluation, and policymaking concerning research contributing to global priorities. It enhances its societal impact and informs policymakers through a lens of sustainability.

At the heart of the SDG integration to OpenAIRE is an advanced ensemble algorithm built by Athena Research Center and its spinoff OPIX. It blends various machine learning models like Guided LDA and BERT-based classifiers. The algorithm excels in thematic categorization and contextual analysis of research texts. It is designed for continuous evolution, adapting to new research and policy shifts providing a dynamic tool that can evolve with the pace of innovation. Human expertise complements AI in this system, ensuring nuanced accuracy, especially in complex cases. 

The system was integrated into the OpenAIRE Graph serving as all the OpenAIRE services’ nerve center, with approximately 250 million research products and enhanced the existing suite of text mining tools for enrichment and linking purposes. 

Peering into the Nexus of Research Funding and Sustainable Development Goals

Below we present an analysis of European Union (EU)-funded projects obtained from Cordis, focusing on their alignment with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Using the title and the objective of each project we categorized each project into specific SDG domains and uncovered patterns that shed light on the collective efforts in addressing global challenges. Our investigation delves into the distribution of projects across different SDGs and the interconnectedness of SDG categories within each project, revealing the correlations and co-occurrences that contribute to a holistic understanding of the project's impact on multiple goals. We employ word clouds to visually demonstrate the semantic relevance of the project objectives to their respective SDGs. The prominence of specific terms in the word clouds serves as an insightful validation, affirming that the classification results align coherently with the intended SDG themes.

Keep reading to uncover the details of our SDG analysis. Alternatively, stay tuned for future updates as we further integrate the SDGs into OpenAIRE's monitoring services.

Exploring the SDGs in EC Projects

Out of a total of 5,426 projects analyzed, the classification process involved utilizing the concatenation of project titles and objectives to assign each initiative to specific Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) categories. The results paint a revealing picture of the distribution of projects across various SDGs. Notably, SDG 7, focused on Affordable and Clean Energy, and SDG 13, addressing Climate Action, emerged as the most heavily represented categories, reflecting a concentrated effort in these critical areas. On the other end of the spectrum, SDG category 5, centered on Gender Equality, stood out as the least-represented.



Visualizing the interconnections between SDG categories, our analysis unveils intriguing patterns through a chord diagram and heatmap. The chord diagram illustrates the relationships between different SDG categories, exposing overlaps and intersections. Notably, a significant overlap is observed between projects classified under SDG 13 (Climate Action) and those categorized under SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). This visual representation hints at the inherent linkages between climate action initiatives, clean energy projects, and sustainable urban development efforts. Supporting this observation, the accompanying heatmap provides a quantitative view of the shared occurrences across SDG categories. The prevalence of shared classifications reinforces the notion that projects addressing climate action often extend their focus to include clean energy and sustainable practices, showcasing a holistic approach toward achieving multiple sustainable development goals. 


Zooming in on Sustainable Development Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), a distinct pattern emerges as it exhibits a robust connection with SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 13 (Climate Action), and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). These linkages suggest a synergy between projects focusing on industrial and infrastructural development and those dedicated to clean energy, climate action, and responsible consumption. Intriguingly, SDG 9 displays a weaker connection with SDG 5 (Gender Equality) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities), indicating potential areas for improvement in terms of inclusivity and gender-related considerations.


Delving into specific projects within SDG 9, an interesting case is exemplified by the project "Boosting female entrepreneurship through joint services and activities”. This 24-month initiative aligns closely with the European Commission's vision of creating interconnected, inclusive, and efficient innovation ecosystems across Europe. The project's overarching goal is to empower innovation agencies and accelerators to enhance joint services and activities, specifically targeting the boost of female entrepreneurship and women's innovation within participating ecosystems. The project consortium strategically brings together innovation agencies and accelerators from varying innovator regions, aiming to support women innovators, foster an entrepreneurial mindset, and connect initiatives that contribute to economic development and growth through green, digital, and social transitions. By focusing on specific projects like this, we gain valuable insights into how SDG 9 manifests in practical initiatives and contributes to broader societal goals.

Our analysis reveals a relatively weak connection between SDG 4 and SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy). This suggests that there may be untapped potential for further research and initiatives that bridge the gap between quality education and clean energy. The Sankey diagram visually represents the distribution of projects across these two SDG categories, offering insights into the current landscape and underscoring opportunities for enhancing synergies between educational efforts and sustainable energy solutions.


In our exploration of projects spanning multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a notable example involves a project classified under both SDG 4 (Quality Education) and SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy). Titled 'European Higher Education Institutions Network for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences'  this initiative addresses the pressing climate crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Recognizing the imminent challenges posed by extreme temperatures, air pollution, and desert dust, the EU-funded Edu4ClimAte project aims to establish a European universities alliance as a regional hub. Engaging 12 partners from 6 EU countries, the project contributes to advancing scientific knowledge and developing innovative climate solutions. By fostering collaboration and education, particularly in the context of the EU Green Deal, this initiative serves as a concrete example of how projects can concurrently address the critical goals of quality education and affordable, clean energy for a sustainable future.

In our effort to provide a nuanced understanding of the thematic landscapes within each Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) category, we present a series of captivating word clouds that visually encapsulate the essence of each domain. These word clouds offer a dynamic snapshot of the most frequently occurring terms within the titles and objectives of projects aligned with each SDG. As we explore the unique contours of each cloud, patterns and dominant themes emerge, reflecting the diverse nature of projects encapsulated under specific SDGs. The size and prominence of words within the clouds correspond to their frequency, allowing for an intuitive grasp of the key focal points within each SDG category. This visual exploration serves as a compelling supplement to our quantitative analyses, offering a vivid representation of the varied and interconnected priorities embedded in projects contributing to the pursuit of sustainable development goals. Word clouds reflect the precision and relevance of the classification approach, as it accurately identifies and categorizes content specifically aligned with the key themes of SDG goals, focusing on terms directly associated with each SDG goal and demonstrating the classifier's ability to capture the diverse dimensions of each goal.

For instance, the inclusion of words like "food, agriculture, farmer, and crop" in a word cloud about SDG 2 reflects the key components of the goal, which is to eradicate hunger, ensure food security, and promote sustainable agriculture for the well-being of current and future generations. 



The word cloud for SDG 3, focusing on "Good Health and Well-being", prominently features words such as "patient", "health", "disease" and "clinical." This reflects the core objectives of SDG 3, which seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. The prominence of "patient" emphasizes the goal's commitment to individual-centered healthcare, highlighting the importance of providing quality and accessible healthcare services. The inclusion of "health" underscores the overarching aim of achieving better health outcomes globally. "Disease" reflects the goal's focus on preventing and treating various illnesses, addressing both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Lastly, the term "clinical" emphasizes the significance of evidence-based medical practices and research in advancing healthcare. Together, these prominent words in the word cloud capture the essence of SDG 3, illustrating a comprehensive approach to improving health, preventing diseases, and ensuring quality healthcare services for individuals and communities worldwide.



In a word cloud designed for SDG 14, centered around "Life Below Water",  the persistent presence of words like "ocean," "sea," "ecological," "marine," and "species"  underscores the core objectives of Sustainable Development Goal 14. This thematic emphasis reflects the goal's commitment to conserving and sustainably using oceans, seas, and marine resources. The inclusion of "ocean"  and "sea"  highlights the focal point on aquatic ecosystems, while "ecological"  emphasizes the importance of maintaining the ecological balance within marine environments. The terms "marine"  and "species"  draw attention to the need to protect marine life and biodiversity. The word cloud thus effectively communicates the essence of SDG 14, encapsulating the goal's emphasis on responsible ocean management, ecological preservation, and the conservation of marine species for the benefit of present and future generations.



The word cloud for SDG 16, representing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 16 on "Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, " prominently features the words "democracy," "citizen," "legal,"  and "law" in large font. This visual representation underscores the central themes of SDG 16, which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies,  provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions. The emphasis on "democracy" highlights the goal's focus on fostering democratic governance, while "citizen"  emphasizes the importance of active and engaged participation of individuals in shaping their societies. The prominence of "legal"  and "law"  underscores the significance of establishing and upholding a just legal framework, ensuring equal access to justice and protection of human rights. Overall, this word cloud visually communicates the key elements of SDG 16, depicting a commitment to the rule of law, citizen engagement, and the establishment of robust legal institutions for the promotion of peace and justice.



Finally, we turn our attention to the total European Union (EU) contribution of funds allocated to each SDG category to identify the financial commitment of the EU to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is important to note that due to the inherent challenge of precisely delineating how funds were distributed across multiple SDG categories within individual projects, we have adopted a conservative approach by assigning the entire funding amount to each corresponding SDG category. This pragmatic method allows us to provide a comprehensive overview of the overall EU financial support for each SDG. As we delve into the figures, a clearer picture emerges of the relative investment across diverse sustainability objectives, offering valuable insights into the prioritization of funding allocations and signaling potential areas of emphasis within the broader framework of sustainable development.