Formas funds research of the highest scientific quality to contribute to ecologically, economically and socially sustainable development. The reviewers in the evaluation panels have the competence to assess social science, humanities, natural science and technical research within Formas’ areas of responsibility.
The same application may be relevant to several panels, but will be evaluated by the panel comprised of the reviewers with the most appropriate competence. The panels also evaluate interdisciplinary research (crossing subject boundaries) and transdisciplinary research (bridging research and societal boundaries).
The research that is supported must be of the highest scientific quality and have the potential to be of benefit to society in the short-term or long-term and may apply to all levels of society. Formas strives to promote equality between women and men and for the importance of gender and other critical perspectives to be included in the recognised in the research.
1. Climate change
The research community agrees that climate change exists and also that it is us humans and the ways that we have organised our societies that to a large extent have caused these changes.
However, how climate changes should be understood and measured, the effects and consequences these have and the kinds of solutions available are issues that need further examination.
Climate change is a complex problem involving a great number of uncertainties and gaps in knowledge. This area therefore requires a diverse range of different and complementary research perspectives and approaches.
2. Water – from source to sea
Water – groundwater, freshwater and seawater, as well as related ecosystems – is essential to all life and biodiversity on Earth.
Access to this natural resource cannot however be taken for granted. The lack of clean drinking water causes, among other things, the spread of disease and health hazards. Water resources are a source of conflict, sometimes as a result of the link to energy and food production.
Marine areas are more increasingly (over-)exploited and the human impact on the oceans is a problem. The pressure on coastal waters is particularly great, where many different interests compete. The fish stocks of the oceans are under intense pressure and marine and coastal ecosystems must be protected. These challenges in turn necessitate effective administration.
3. Ecosystems and biodiversity on land
Human society depends heavily on the ability to utilise and harvest natural resources. However, the ability to adapt sustainable management systems require extensive knowledge about the ecosystems. Not only natural ecosystems, but also ecosystems under intensive human land-use, like farming, forestry or urban development.
Knowledge is also needed about how we relate to nature and its values, how this depends on social, economic, political and cultural conditions, and how these change over time. An integrated understanding of both parts provides a basis for well-balanced decisions about management and governance.
4. Environmental pollutants
Pollutants spread from various sources into the indoor and outdoor environments and can have impact negatively on humans and the environment. The long-term effects are difficult to predict and are also sometimes difficult to identify.
These insights should be seen in relation to the type of knowledge that exists concerning environmental toxins and pollutants in society and the consequences that different actions may have.
In order to be able to initiate measures at an early stage, methods are needed that can identify environmental pollutants at various stages, pathways of distribution and the effects that these pollutants have on humans and the environment.
Additional development areas are different forms of control and technological solutions, to substitute the hazardous substances and improve the understanding of people’s attitudes to chemicals and their potential hazards.
In this review panel, applications related to environmental pollutants within all research discipline(s) are reviewed.
5. Food production
A safe and secured food supply is fundamental for sustainable development. In order to reach that a viable and well-functioning food system is needed, all the way from primary production to the consumer. To ensure this improved and developed knowledge within the area, and new approaches need to be identified.
What and how we eat affects the environment and our health. Ensuring access to safe, nutritious and healthy food for every individual in the world is a complex challenge that takes different forms in different parts of the world, depending for example on conflict situations, population growth and demographic changes.
6. Animal health and welfare
We humans are dependent on animals, both on a social level as well as for our food supply.
We shall have a food production with good animal welfare without the spread of diseases between animals and between animals and humans. In addition, animal health and welfare are increasingly concerned with human interactions with and relationships towards domestic animals and their well-being.
How can we contribute to increased health and welfare in farm animals, sporting and companion animals and other by human kept animals? In order to ensure this, knowledge within this area needs to be strengthen and new approaches identified.
7. Consumption, production and materials
Production and consumption of goods and services require use of natural resources of various kinds. With a global increase of both population and standard of living comes an increase in demand of both goods and services – and consequently also for natural resources.
Production and consumption of goods and services, and the generated waste associated with this, affect the environment. It will therefore be more and more important to increase resource efficiency and sustainability compared to today’s situation.
Using resources in a more environmentally and socially sustainable way, with the aid of, e.g., new products, processes and materials, as well as reuse, recycling of existing products, can contribute to improved sustainability. Also, consumption has a significant effect on sustainability and consumption pattern is therefore an equally important component in the development of a sustainable society.
8. The built environment
To plan, build and manage the built environment in a technologically safe, as well as in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner brings a number of challenges for various stakeholders in society.
The construction of public or private buildings and environments requires different types of planning processes and models. The decisions that are taken can in turn have consequences for the people’s opportunity to exercise influence over situations and their own welfare, including health aspects.
There are many socio-economic, technological and architectural choices in the construction process, as well as opportunities to exchange non-renewable materials for renewable materials. This also encompasses the importance of the role of clients and issues that concern decisions to initiate new construction, recycling or renovation.
9. Urban and rural areas
An urgent question is how cities, other urban areas and rural areas should best be designed, governed and developed in an inclusive and sustainable direction.
More and more people and resources are concentrated in and around a number of rapidly growing cities, and these are often central to development and innovation at municipal, regional, national and international levels. Although such development has a large inherent potential, such expansion can be detrimental to other cities, urban and semi-urban areas, and the residents themselves.
In association with this, rural areas are also faced with challenges and opportunities, such as the development of new businesses and services, the sustainable use of land and water resources and issues concerning how the need for social services and resources should be met.
10. General governance, implementation and monitoring
In order to contribute to knowledge about sustainable development on a more general level, research that can integrate several areas or sectors and that has a comparative perspective is required.
Fundamental changes and transitions also necessitate the co-operation of the political, commercial and non-governmental spheres at all levels of society. In order to monitor national and global objectives and conflicts in objectives, different forms of data collection and the development of methods for governance and follow-up are required.
Review panel ten concerns issues of governing policies, implementation and monitoring that require a general approach, or in other words concern several sectors or have a broad comparative perspective. Issues that concern, for example, administration or governance within individual topic areas are appraised by review panels one to nine.