Aligning research with policy and practice for sustainable agricultural land systems in Europe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Agriculture is widely recognized as critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but researchers, policymakers, and practitioners have multiple, often conflicting yet poorly documented priorities on how agriculture could or should support achieving the SDGs. Here, we assess consensus and divergence in priorities for agricultural systems among research, policy, and practice perspectives and discuss the implications for research on trade-offs among competing goals. We analyzed the priorities given to 239 environmental and social drivers, management choices, and outcomes of agricultural systems from 69 research articles, the SDGs and four EU policies, and seven agricultural sustainability assessment tools aimed at farmers. We found all three perspectives recognize 32 variables as key to agricultural systems, providing a shared area of focus for agriculture's contribution to the SDGs. However, 207 variables appear in only one or two perspectives, implying that potential trade-offs may be overlooked if evaluated from only one perspective. We identified four approaches to agricultural land systems research in Europe that omit most of the variables considered important from policy and practice perspectives. We posit that the four approaches reflect prevailing paradigms of research design and data analysis and suggest future research design should consider including the 32 shared variables as a starting point for more policy- and practicerelevant research. Our identification of shared priorities from different perspectives and attention to environmental and social domains and the functional role of system components provide a concrete basis to encourage codesigned and systems-based research approaches to guide agriculture's contribution to the SDGs.


External organisations
  • McGill University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
  • Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified


  • Codesigned research, Communication, Farming systems, Science policy, Trade-offs
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4911-4916
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch