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The Physical Sciences, Human Rights, and the SDGs

Author: Mika Armenta


  1. Dorothy J Phillips, Director at Large, American Chemical Society
  2. Derek Griffith, Founder and Director, Center for Research on Men’s Health, Vanderbilt University
  3. Emily Lewis O’Brien, Director, Climate and Energy Analysis (CLEAN) Center
  4. Robert Wingfield, Associate Professor & Chemistry Discipline Coordinator, Department of Life and Physical Sciences, Fisk University
  5. Mary Kirchhoff, Director, Scientific Advancement at American Chemical Society
  6. Karen Garcia, Senior Legislative Associate at American Chemical Society
  7. Lori Brown, Senior Manager, Global Outreach at American Chemical Society


Session Summary

The goals of this workshop were to brainstorm technical solutions and socioeconomic barriers to achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) regarding health and well-being, affordable and clean energy, and climate action. Particular emphasis was on the field of chemistry in the beginning. However, a variety of academic disciplines including engineering, psychology, law, the humanities and art, and how they might contribute, were also discussed.


  1. COVID-19 factored into conversations on the SDGs related to both health and clean energy.
  2. Barriers to health and well-being included trust in the healthcare system, accessibility, and use of data to inform medical and health-related decisions (such as whether to get a vaccine and which one and how to ensure that those who decide not to get a vaccine are still protected).
  3. Barriers to achievement of the clean energy SDG included policies (such as zoning laws) and behavioral barriers (such as the ‘last mile’ wherein public transportation will take one only so far).



  1. There are many diverse ways that the sciences and engineering can contribute to the UN SDGs – we already have many of the tools – and there are also many diverse and complex problems which involve the interaction of humans, infrastructural and cognitive/behavioral/cultural barriers that these can be applied to.


Key Words

  1. Sustainable Development Goals
  2. Chemistry
  3. Policy
  4. Human-centered design
  5. Healthcare
  6. Well-being
  7. COVID-19
  8. Clean energy


Other Resources

  1. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals