• Q

    As SEI’s new Research Director you will have overall responsibility for the quality, credibility and novelty of our research. What are the highlights from your own research career so far?

    A

    One highlight, among many, is that SEI was among the first research institutes to work on what was to become the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. Now, as decision makers grapple with the delivery of this agenda, there is great demand for our expertise all over the world.

    From my own research, I’m also proud to have been involved in developing the Planetary Boundaries. This framework has had real influence on the language and concepts of policy makers, and continues to stimulate scientific debate.

    On a personal level, I am privileged to have had talented and thoughtful women as role models throughout my career – from my time as a doctoral student at the London School of Economics all the way to the present day at SEI.

  • Q

    What are your goals as Research Director?

    A

    My role is about two things really, to ensure that SEI’s research has high scientific quality and credibility, and that we stimulate creative and innovative thinking to bring out the best ideas and projects. These are big tasks – but I have a few specific goals in the medium-term!

    First, to fulfil the goals of our current five-year strategy, particularly when it comes to the eleven global research initiatives on topics such as sustainable sanitation, gender equality, phasing out fossil fuels, finance, disaster risk reduction to name but a few. This final phase of strategy delivery is about getting as much impact as possible and supporting the needs of our stakeholders and users.

    Second, in the coming year I’ll devote more time to developing the new SEI Strategy 2020-2024. My aim is to ensure that this Strategy outlines and provides the platform for a strong, smart and relevant research portfolio that draws on the strengths of our different regional centers. We also need to update our global analysis for the new strategy. Much has happened over the last five years!

    Third, I want to find a clear role for SEI in the new science landscape, which now faces pressure for change in terms of, for example, open science, communicating real-time research and the digital possibilities of visualization.

  • Q

    What are the key challenges that you think you’ll face as Research Director and Deputy Director?

    A

    Balancing responding to demand from stakeholders, broadening our agenda, and making time for creative thinking and thoughtful reflection. The tempo has increased in our sector, like many others.

    A positive challenge will be to collectively generate the foresight needed to develop new relevant research. For example, grasping the full implications of emerging technologies (e.g. digitalization, AI) and socio-political trends (e.g. demography, shifts in geopolitical power and alliances) for our core business. At the same time, we must retain a balanced view of the world, for example the technological optimism sweeping across high-income and emerging economies, with institutional and social problems and violations of rights.

  • Q

    Where are the research opportunities for SEI?

    A

    As the world enters into the implementation phase of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, it is important to ensure that the transformation work in the public sector and industry is knowledge-based and that we continue to carry out relevant and applicable research.

    In that context, I see a lot of opportunities! There is such a broad interest in sustainability issues now, at least here in Sweden. But this also becomes something of a challenge of prioritization and focus for SEI.

    Although decision makers are rightly focused on the current delivery period for the SDGs, it’s the role of organisations such as SEI to look beyond the current agenda. I don’t think it is too soon to start thinking about what happens after 2030, and begin asking new questions that lead to innovative research that informs the an ongoing need for evidence to inform policy.

  • Q

    What’s your vision for SEI and, in particular, our research agenda and methods?

    A

    To be an independent and original thinker but firmly grounded in practice. Grounded in practice both when it comes to developing our research questions in the first place and when it comes to responsibility for ensuring impact.

    To work with all levels, from grassroots organisations to international players, and therefore be open in our thinking about what shapes human development. With offices in the North and South, we are spreading resources and expertise, but also seeing the linkages.

  • Q

    How can SEI improve the impact of its research?

    A

    In the time I’ve worked at SEI, we have come a long way! But there is more to do, of course. I’d like to see our research packaged in ways that are even more applicable by decision makers. This might mean more visualizations – but in such a way that these can directly support decision making.

    We also need to capture the ‘wisdom’ of our research, making sense of our many projects and the best science through synthesis and assessments.

    Working more with local partners is also a pathway to improved impact, both for groundedness and because we cannot spread ourselves too thinly. And we should continue to partner with the public and private sector to identify research questions, co-create knowledge and design evidence-based interventions.

  • Q

    Why should researchers consider SEI as a potential employer?

    A

    To work with very dedicated and clever people with a mix of backgrounds. With our 8 centres across the world, it is hard to think of a more international research environment. We allow for diversity in how we work and I think our incentive structures reflect that, in that people can produce academic research, and work practically and directly with change-makers. I don’t think we are a very siloed organisation, but form small networks and teams for different projects. For us, sustainable development is not an issue of employer branding issue, it is our core issue.