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. Furthermore, that it is us as humans and the ways in which we have organised our societies that have caused these changes to a large extent.
How should climate changes be understood and measured? What are the effects and consequences of this? What solutions are available? What behavioural changes can affect progress? These are all 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.
Sustainable energy is important for our future climate. However, within the Annual open call, certain delimitations are made with reference to the three areas of responsibility. In the section Delimitations in the call text, it is stated which areas the call does not include. Furthermore, climate change is the primary research area in this review panel and energy is only secondary.
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 utilize and harvest natural resources. However, a considerate use also requires a good understanding of ecosystems and biodiversity.
Knowledge is also needed about how humans relate to nature and its values, how this relationship depends on social, economic, political and cultural conditions, and how these change over time. An integrated understanding of society and its relationship with nature provides a basis for well-balanced decisions about use and management.
This panel includes questions that address ecosystems on land that are unaffected by humans, as well as ecosystems that are strongly characterized by human activities such as recreation, farming, forestry and urban development.
This panel does not include studies that primarily focus on food production, the morphology and physiology of organisms, technological development and logistics, human health or work environment.
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. This necessitates a viable, sustainable and well-functioning food system, all the way from primary production to the consumer. Projects that address animal welfare are, however, referred to the review panel Animal Health and Welfare.
What and how we eat affects the environment and our health. Ensuring each individual’s access to safe, flavourful, nutritious, and healthy food worldwide is a complex challenge. This challenge 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 depend on animals, both on a social level and for our food supply. Animals must be afforded adequate protection, welfare and health.
We strive to reduce the spread of disease between animals and between humans and animals. In addition, animal health and welfare is increasingly concerned with human interaction and relationships with animals, One Health as well as One Welfare.
We welcome research projects that aims to an increased health and increased welfare of sporting- and companion animals, laboratory animals, farm animals on land and in water and other animals in our surroundings. Projects that primary address human health, using animals as a model species as well as projects that aims to develop alternative methods to animal testing are not within the scope of the review panel.
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.
Sustainable energy is a central part of sustainable development. However, within the Annual open call, certain delimitations are made with reference to the three areas of responsibility. In the section Delimitations in the call text, it is stated which areas the call does not include.
8. The built environment
The construction and management of buildings require large amounts of natural resources, account for large emissions of greenhouse gases and have an extensive environmental impact, both when buildings are built, used, renovated, and demolished. How buildings are designed, constructed, and managed also affects human health and well-being.
The planning, construction and management of buildings and indoor environments thus pose a variety of sustainability challenges to different stakeholders. The focus of panel eight is on the social, economic, technical, and design challenges that arise in the transition to sustainable construction and sustainable buildings. This includes questions on circularity, for example regarding design and choice of materials, or when deciding whether to build new, recycle or renovate buildings.
Issues relating to the interaction between the built environment and the people who use, live and work in it are also addressed, including how this interaction can be designed and organized in a way that contributes to an inclusive, healthy, and sustainable development.
9. Urban and rural areas
The ways in which cities, towns and rural areas are planned, governed, and developed affect the conditions for a good and sustainable life. A sustainable spatial planning aims at reducing the impact on ecosystems and the climate, and at the same time satisfying the need for good living environments for everyone, now and in the future.
Panel nine focuses on how the planning, governing, and development of cities, smaller towns, and rural areas can be realized in an inclusive and sustainable direction. Central issues for the group are for example societal concerns, justice aspects, design, and the conditions needed for people to be able to live and work in sustainable ways, in cities as well as in rural areas – in all parts of the world.
The panel also includes questions that regard the interaction between urban and rural areas, as well as questions concerning how the access to resources and societal services can be provided in a just and sustainable way – both within and between cities and rural areas. Issues that deal with the planning, design, and use of green and blue spaces and of the society’s infrastructure are also of relevance.
10. General governance, implementation and monitoring
In order to contribute to knowledge about sustainable development on a more comprehensive level, research is needed that is capable of integrating several areas or sectors and that takes a comparative perspective.
Review panel ten concerns how society and societal development are governed, changed and monitored. Fundamental changes and transitions also necessitate the cooperation of the political, commercial and non-governmental spheres at all levels of society. Here, questions about people's approaches to sustainability challenges at the individual, group or system level are also included. In addition, questions that address the effectiveness and enforcement of society’s laws, guidelines and instruments related to sustainability are included in the panel. To achieve a sustainable and fair development new perspectives and analyzes of conflicts of objectives, policy development and political decisions are also welcomed.
The group’s focus is on issues that cover several subject areas, or have broad, comparative perspectives. Questions concerning individual subject areas are dealt with in the other review panels in the call.