Global progress in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires significant national and international research efforts and collaboration. The current study aimed to provide policymakers, academics, and researchers with a snapshot of global SDGs-related research activity.
This was a cross-sectional descriptive bibliometric study. SciVerse Scopus was used to retrieve SDGs-related research publications for the period from 2015 to 2019.
In total, 18,696 documents were found. The Sustainability journal ranked first (n = 1008; 5.4%) in the number of SDGs-related publications. The World Health Organization was the most active institution in publishing SDGs-related documents (n = 581; 1.3%). Most of the retrieved documents belonged to SDG 17 (partnership) followed by SDG 13 (climate action), and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), while SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) had the least number of publications. The European region (n = 9756; 52.2%) had the highest research contribution while the Eastern Mediterranean region (n = 1052; 5.6%) had the least contribution. After exclusion of SDG 17, the SDG 3 (good health and well-being) was the top researched SDG for the African region, the Eastern Mediterranean regions, and the South-Eastern Asian region. For the region of the Americas, European region, and the Western Pacific region, the SDG 13 (climate action) was the most researched. The SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) was the least researched in the African region, the region of the Americas, the European region, and the South-East Asian region. In the Eastern Mediterranean region, SDG 10 (reduced inequality) was the least researched while in the Western Pacific region, SDG 5 (gender inequality) was the least researched. The most researched targets of SDG 3 were targets 7 (sexual and reproductive health services) and 8 (universal health coverage) while the least researched targets were 5 (substance use disorders) and 9 (death from hazardous materials). International research collaboration within SDG 3 between high- and low-income countries was inadequate.
The analysis presented in the current study are useful for researchers, institutes, governments, funding agencies, and policy-makers. Countries in Africa, the Middle East, and South-East Asia need to increase their funding and research collaboration in the field of SDGs.