Research in Future Earth is carried out by its community of international projects, around three broad themes. These are:

These themes function as broad platforms for strategic and integrated Earth system research under Future Earth. The themes are broad, and each calls for collaboration across a range of research areas and disciplines. The themes were developed by the Future Earth Transition Team through a series of consultations. Supported by a set of crosscutting capabilities, these themes propose an initial structure for the implementation of Future Earth.

The proposed themes are designed to respond to new and urgent calls for research to inform development, respond to major global sustainability challenges as set out in the Future Earth 2025 Vision, and to identify the social, technological, economic and other transformations towards sustainability.

Research priorities under Future Earth are further elaborated in the Strategic Research Agenda 2014 that was published by the Science Committee and interim Engagement Committee following a lengthy period of consultation with stakeholders worldwide.