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How can sustainability research have a real social impact?

2024-06-21 09:30:00

Internal incentives, knowledge sharing, community connections and real social impact were among the topics discussed at a workshop on how to promote sustainability research.
Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem

Sustainability research is the Theme of the Month at Corvinus in June. As part of the Research Week, the ERS (Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability) Hub, represented by Ágnes Zsóka, Vice-Rector for Academic Development, Katalin Ásványi, Associate Professor and Head of Department at the Institute of Sustainable Development, and Zoltán Szántó, Vice-Rector for Research, jointly organised a workshop on connecting sustainability and research strategy. 

Ágnes Zsóka asked the participants to collect together actions worthy of implementation that would enable the University to further strengthen research and publications related to ERS themes (in terms of quantity and quality) and to achieve real social impact. 

Internal incentives and knowledge sharing for sustainability research  

Internal incentives are clearly important in motivating researchers. Awards and other recognitions have emerged as such tools. Katalin Ásványi said that this year, for the first time, the University has also awarded an ERS Publication Excellence Award in connection with the CKK Awards. Financial incentives could be used, such as setting a bonus target for ERS research, and the idea of a “Wall of Fame” was raised at the workshop, where the most successful ERS publications could be given a special place. The quarterly Corvinus Research Highlights publication could also include ERS/sustainability as a separate theme, according to colleagues. 

Students’ research on ERS is published in their theses and Scientific Students’ Associations Conference (TDK) papers, for which the ERS Hub has already awarded several special prizes this year. This should be an incentive for students in the future. Sustainability research should also be integrated into talent management as an important topic that future researchers and leaders should certainly address. 

Widening the availability of publications was identified as an area for improvement. It is also considered important that university students, PhD students, staff have access to more information and are informed about the different opportunities, so that they can find more easily a suitable topic and a potential consultant, co-author or research group in the ERS field. This could be done through the pilot MTMT-based Research Competences Map, but in the future, it could also be useful to organize workshops and brainstorming sessions, and to create a Research Pool. 

Research should have a real social impact 

Zoltán Szántó emphasised that, in addition to the number and quality of research and publications, the aim is to ensure that they have a real social impact and are embedded in national and international sustainability efforts. The sustainability strategy also includes targets such as the creation of an international map of relations, the number of sustainability research projects in cooperation with other universities or researchers, and the number of projects involving businesses, civil society and the public sector. 

When building external partnerships, participants consider it essential to include small and medium-sized enterprises alongside civil society partners and large companies, through which the social impact is more direct, due to their stronger local presence. Communication is also important in strengthening partnerships, so that results are more visible to the scientific community and the wider public, including through media coverage. 

Mária Csutora said that in order to have a meaningful impact, our own credibility is also an important aspect, what we as researchers or the university demand of ourselves and what kind of example we set for others. Calculating and reducing our own carbon footprint and making travel to scientific conferences more sustainable were issues to be addressed in the future and where concrete steps need to be taken, with the active involvement of the University’s departments and students. 

In addition to measuring the substantive impact, it is important to encourage the use of alternative research methods, which are more participatory and involving than traditional methods. Réka Matolay emphasized that participatory action research is an example of this, the implementation of which in itself has some impulse and impact on the communities involved. 

Sustainability research will continue to be a priority 

In the coming years, sustainability will be a strategic priority for Corvinus. “The University aims at increasing its publication activity and research capacity in relation to sustainability/ERS by providing the necessary organisational frameworks and encouraging internal and external collaboration, to produce research of significant impact and attain research excellence” says the Institutional Development Plan 2024-2027. 

Implementation is built around the seven principles of the Sustainability Strategy. These are designing initiatives and actions with a meaningful, long-term and significant impact; environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability are equally important; impacts of actions serving the implementation of the objectives must be assessed.  

The Strategy and the actions aimed at its implementations are open and available to all university citizens and must be a key element of the University’s communication. The University seeks to respond to and harness innovative practices of external parties with transdisciplinary innovations, shared by the teaching and research community. The promotion of sustainability is the duty and the responsibility of each citizen and the entire community of the University. 

The Corvinus University ERS (Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability) Hub platform was established under the supervision of the Vice Rector for Academic Development to coordinate projects and initiatives related to ethics, responsibility and sustainability at the university level, as well as to provide an open platform for their extensive dissemination and the involvement of volunteers and supporters. 

In May 2024, we relaunched the Sustainability Theme of the Month project, with the aim of presenting an interesting and relevant topic at Corvinus every month. In June, we write about sustainability research in connection with Research Week and the ERS Hub TDK and Publication Awards. Corvinus events, activities and results related to the topic but not included in this article are welcome at mate.kovacs2@uni-corvinus.hu and will be added to the articles.    

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GEN.:2024.07.15. - 02:43:45