MOTIVATION: Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) is a global partnership addressing challenges to universal water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) access. Shortly following adoption of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, the Research and Learning (R&L) constituency of SWA undertook a systematic study to determine global research priorities and learning needs.
PURPOSE: We aimed to identify priority topics where improved knowledge would aid achievement of Goal 6, by developing a global WaSH research agenda, and to describe evidence-use challenges among WaSH professionals.
APPROACH AND METHODS: We delivered a tailored, semi-structured electronic questionnaire to representatives from countries, R&L institutions, and other SWA partners (external support agencies, civil society, and private sector). The survey gathered views from 76 respondents working in an estimated 36 countries across all world regions. Data were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively to identify patterns and themes.
FINDINGS: Most responses indicated lowered confidence on at least one Goal 6 target area, especially managing untreated wastewater and faecal sludge. Both brief and lengthy information formats were valued. WaSH information was perceived as conflicting or unreliable among non-R&L constituencies, suggesting differences in perceptions and information-seeking approaches. While the R&L constituency appeared saturated with learning and training opportunities, others perceived barriers to participating (e.g. not receiving notice or invitation). Research and other WaSH activities were frequently constrained by upward accountability to funders, while stakeholders were inconsistently included in research processes.
POLICY IMPLICATIONS: This study offers insight into perceived research and decision challenges related to Goal 6 targets. It develops a unified research agenda focused on high priority topics, and recommends renewed attention to evidence synthesis, learning and implementation support, research engagement, and multisectoral coordination.