The concept of sustainable development was the topic of several scientific debates along the past decades worldwide, beginning with the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972) and continuing with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992), the special session of the United Nations General Assembly, the adoption of the Millennium Declaration (2000) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2002). Thus, complex problems of sustainable development reached global political dimensions and there were outlined concrete programs of action at global and local level, according to the dictum “Think Globally, Act Locally”.
In this ample process a number of international conventions were adopted, which establish the legal basis for practical implementation of the concepts of sustainable development and also concrete obligations for the states, including deadlines for: climate change, biodiversity conservation, forest and wetland protection, limiting the use of certain chemical products, access to information on environmental condition, etc. (National Strategy of Romania for sustainable Development, 2008).
In strategies for sustainable development at European and national level, as in 7th framework programme, is given distinguished attendance to ensure the connection between research and sustainable development. This connection is highlighted in the latest policy documents on research and development at European level: A Strategic European Framework for International Science and Technology Cooperation, Toward Joint Programming in Research: Working together to tackle common challenges more effectively. Also, the vision of the European Research Area for 2020 mentions that the connection “must have strong roots in society and it has to respond to the society’s needs and ambitions in order to ensure the sustainable development”.
The arising questions are: To which extent does sustainable development imply changes in the conduct of research and in the elaboration of policies? Which are the indicators needed to measure the contribution of research to sustainable development? („RD4SD” Exercise, Background papers-second version, 2009)
An integrated approach to social, economic and environmental problems is needed. We should also keep in mind that research is closely linked to innovation, education and the pressure of public policies and the aspirations of society.