Sport, ‘friluftsliv’ and the environment

Call for research proposals

This post is also available in Swedish

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) invites research groups, jointly with relevant stakeholders in the society, to submit proposals for a new research programme. The submitted proposals should address significant environmental problems faced by society, with an emphasis on developing long term solutions. The focus of this call is on sport and on ‘friluftsliv’ (outdoor recreation) jointly, with the aims to forward our understanding of sustainability related to sport and ‘friluftsliv’, to reduce negative environmental impacts and to make a considerable contribution to the societal transformation for a sustainable development. Increased interdisciplinary collaboration connecting sport and ‘friluftsliv’ is expected.


A large number of people in Sweden take part in sport and ‘friluftsliv’ (outdoor recreation). Central and local government strongly advocate using sport and ‘friluftsliv’ to promote key social goals, such as public health. Linked to sporting and ‘friluftsliv’ activities is a strong business sector with a major role in job creation. The activities also involve considerable voluntary efforts. Thus, there are a range of different actors involved, with varying authority, purpose and engagement.

Environmental impacts of sport and ‘friluftsliv’ have received comparatively little attention. Relevant environmental impacts are related to travel to and from activities, equipment, food at events, land use, construction and operation of large arenas, etc. There are considerable gaps in the knowledge base, and some areas are so far not studied at all. Furthermore, environmental changes, including climate change, will affect future sport and ‘friluftsliv’ activities in various ways. This, and other new trends will generate new sets of environmental impacts. With strong organisations and a large number of people engaged, there is also a major potential to introduce and support sustainable practices within specific sport and ‘friluftsliv’ activities and also wider in society, thus contributing to societal transformation for a sustainable development.

The two research disciplines of sports and ‘friluftsliv’ have so far had little collaboration, while each of them have established collaboration with other disciplines. The potential for synergies and for novel explorations are foreseen from a closer cooperation.

This call is based on two reports commissioned by Mistra: a background paper prepared by an international working group to present potentials for a research programme on sports and ‘friluftsliv’ from an environmental perspective (Appendix 1), and a Swedish pre-study looking into the Swedish sport and ‘friluftsliv’ (Appendix 2). Any possible differences in nuance between the Swedish and English versions of the announcement, the English is valid.


The research programme will focus on sport and ‘friluftsliv’, where sport regards participatory as well as spectator activities, and ‘friluftsliv’ both in urban or rural environments is included. Environmental aspects should be in focus. Other relevant sustainability aspects should also be addressed to support the systems perspective, these could be e.g. equality, rural development, health and social cohesion.

This call foresees additional interdisciplinary synergies in a joint sport and ‘friluftsliv’ research programme. The research should be based on collaboration with stakeholders of various kind.  This collaborative approach is to provide more robust and meaningful interventions to solve strategic environmental problems through more sustainable options, choices, and practices.  The programme should translate existing and new research into practical applications and is expected to take a major role in the social debate.

The relevance and expected impact of the programme on the 17 United Nations sustainable development goals must be addressed.

The programme must contain at least the following research areas, which are all foreseen to be interdisciplinary in themselves.

  1. Environmental impacts of sport and ‘friluftsliv’

To develop and apply new criteria for assessing and presenting the environmental impacts and resource use of sport and ‘friluftsliv’ is constitutes a basis of the programme.  The direct and indirect environmental effects of sports and ‘friluftsliv’ are considerable and diverse. To enable the decrease of negative impacts and to facilitate more sustainable practices, the potential impacts, both positive and negative, need to be more comprehensively studied. Positive impacts would most often be indirect, but none the less important. Future potential impacts need to be studied to enable the development of strategies for new sustainable practices.  A systems perspective is key and previous learnings should be integrated and furthered. Learnings from research on environmental impacts in other relevant areas should also be valuable, e.g. transport, clothing, chemicals, land use and food. Future developments related to demographic changes, individualisation vs. group activities, ownership, etc. will influence future impacts. Low negative impact activities or choices may be highlighted.

  1. Behaviour, practices and decision-making of individual and collective actors

The aspects and roles of key actors are important, including the legitimacy, authority, and responsibility they have internally, and in relation to other actors, to promote sustainable behaviours. Different strategies may be used by sport and ‘friluftsliv’ commercial and community organisations, event organisers, authorities and others to encourage more sustainable behaviours among participants and spectators, and even others in the long-term. It is necessary to explore the behaviour, practices and decision-making processes of individuals and collective actors not only to choose but also to provide and promote more sustainable options.

  1. Governance

There are several challenges in governance, for example, in planning situations, where ‘friluftsliv’ has been found to have a rather weak position when there are competing land use interests, or related to the culture and mentality of autonomy in sport organisations.  The programme should highlight relevant conflicts of interest and contribute to solution-focused dialogues. Cross-scale governance processes for engagement, as well as processes that consider the different dimensions of sustainability in an integrated manner are of interest. Differences and similarities between spectator sport, participation sport and ‘friluftsliv’ when it comes to governance, its effect on implementation and success of sustainability initiatives, should be taken into account as well as tools and means of government and organisations.

The weighting given to these three areas may vary, but they must all be included in the research programme and be well integrated with one another. Additional areas could also be included. While environmental aspects of sustainable development should be in focus in the research programme, other relevant sustainability aspects are expected to be addressed as well. This research program will adopt and further develop the existing methodologies for the specific fields of sports and ‘friluftsliv’ in order to contribute to the discourse on and practice of inter- and transdisciplinary research.

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The programme should be planned for four years but have an eight-year perspective. It is expected to be interdisciplinary and in collaboration between relevant stakeholders. It is important to involve the different scientific disciplines, as well as stakeholders, right from the planning stage and onward throughout the whole research process.

Dialogue, sharing of experience and, where relevant, collaboration among Mistra programmes are expected.

Who can apply?

This call addresses research groups in all academic disciplines working at Swedish higher education institutions, research institutes, organizations and companies, as well as other actors in the civil society, business and public sectors. Researchers and organisations active outside Sweden may participate, but the principal applicant and planned programme host must be a Swedish organisation.

The host organisation and other organisations taking part are expected to be coordinated in a consortium and to submit a joint proposal.

Special conditions

  1. Co-funding at 20% of the total programme budget from stakeholders is required. The co-funder’s contribution may be partly in kind, such as staff involved to participate in the programme. The co-funding requirement is based on experience showing that commitment and integration in the programme are enhanced when more than one organisation contributes resources. The co-funding expected must be reported in the proposal and attested with a certificate from the planned programme host.
  2. Current rules concerning indirect costs: see Appendix 3.

Application process and review

The programme proposal must be written in English, except for a summary in Swedish. It should comprise the following parts and appendices, and must comply with the specified page limits. If the proposal exceeds any of the page limits it will not be processed. No other appendices than those specified below may be attached.

The main part of the proposal (a maximum of 40 pages) must include the following parts:

Summary in English and Swedish

  1. Vision, aims and expected impact
  2. Scientific value of the programme, including state-of-the-art
  3. Benefits of the programme to society
  4. Organisation of the programme
  5. Skills and networks
  6. Description of component projects
  7. Deliverables
  8. Communication
  9. Budget (use the budget template, Appendix 4).

The following appendices must be attached:

  1. CVs for up to 10 key people (maximum of one page per person)
  2. Certificate from planned programme host.

Note that the programme proposal must clearly specify the following: (a) preliminary programme title including “Mistra” in the title, (b) planned programme host, (c) planned programme director and (d) contact person for the proposal, with full contact details.

Although 40 is the maximum number of pages for the main part of the proposal, reaching this number is not a target as such. Writing concisely and readably is in every applicant’s interest. If approved, the proposal will serve as the basis of a programme plan to be used for programme implementation.

A certificate should be attached to the proposal confirming that the planned programme host (and also the main applicant) is prepared to assume the role of hosting the programme and to make the requisite resources available, and also accepts Mistra’s rules regarding indirect costs. The planned programme host must also certify that pledges on co-funding have been obtained and match the revenue budget reported. This certificate must be signed by the Vice-Chancellor, Chief Executive or equivalent (or the person appointed by the Vice-Chancellor or Chief Executive in his or her stead).

It should be noted that heading a Mistra programme is normally a full-time commitment and that every programme is expected to have a communicator. Read the section on managing Mistra programmes at (under ‘About Mistra’).

Mistra intends to award research funding for one (1) of the programme proposals submitted. It is not possible to apply for funds for individual projects within the scope of this call.

Note that Mistra is subject to the principle of public access to official records. This means that all documents received by Mistra, including proposals, are public. On certain conditions, information may be treated as confidential. The personal data that is received will be handled in accordance with applicable data protection legislation. For more information see Mistras data privacy policy (

The proposal should be sent as a single PDF file (including appendices) by email to:, to reach Mistra not later than Friday November 30, 2018 at 4:00 pm.

Evaluation criteria

All the proposals will be evaluated according to the following criteria, in which the potential for solving environmental problems and the expected contribution to sustainable development are crucially important:

  1. Approach, i.e. how far the programme has a central, coherent idea and an innovative direction, how well the aims are formulated and how well the anticipated impact is reported (including indicators).
  2. Scientific quality, i.e. how well the programme meets the high requirements in terms of skills, theoretical standards and methodological quality.
  3. Benefits, i.e. how well developed the collaboration with users of the research results is (and is expected to be) and which supportive communication processes and methods will be used to attain effective implementation.
  4. Management and organisation, i.e. the manner in which the programme will be integrated in the host organisation, how it will be governed and structured, and to what degree it will make efficient use of resources.
  5. Competitiveness, i.e. the ways in which the programme has the potential to help promote Sweden’s competitiveness and prosperity in a broad sense.

Time schedule

21 June 2018 – Call opens
30 November 2018 – Call closes
December –  January 2019 – Evaluation of proposals
March 2019 – Award decisions taken by Mistra’s Board
1 July 2019 – Programme start (preliminary)

Åsa Moberg, +46-(0)70-732 46 02 ,