Unraveling public perceptions of the Sustainable Development Goals for better policy implementation

Núria Bautista-Puig, María Barreiro-Gen, Gustė Statulevičiūtė, Vilius Stančiauskas, Gokhan Dikmener, Dina Akylbekova, Rodrigo Lozano: Unraveling public perceptions of the Sustainable Development Goals for better policy implementation. In: Science of The Total Environment, vol. 912, pp. 169114, 2024, ISSN: 0048-9697.


Public participation is crucial for policy-making and can contribute to strengthening democracies and decision-making. Public participation can help to address sustainability challenges and plays a key role in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While the SDGs are policy concepts, there has been limited research conducted on how the public perceives the SDGs. Public participation in scientific research has been carried out through citizen science (CS). This paper analyzes the public's perception of the SDGs through CS and how the public can participate in their implementation. The paper uses the OSDG community platform, a citizen science platform with >2000 participants, to analyze public perception of the SDGs. A set of 40,062 excerpts of text (v2023-01-01), a topic modeling and agreement scores by using CorTexT Manager software, was analyzed. The results show that some SDGs, e.g. health (SDG3) or life below water (SDG14), have higher levels of agreement from the public, whilst for other SDGs the public disagree on their perception, (e.g. zero hunger). The paper shows that issues affecting citizens' daily lives (e.g. in People related goals) tend to have a higher level of agreement among volunteers, while economic issues and directives have greater discrepancies. The results provide an overview of the differences in public perception on the SDGs and their implementation. The misperceptions regarding the SDGs should be reduced to achieve a better implementation, improve public participation, and help policy-making processes.

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