Open Source Research in Sustainability

Sustainability the Journal of Record, 5(4), pp. 238-243, 2012

10 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2012

See all articles by Joshua M. Pearce

Joshua M. Pearce

Western University ; Michigan Technological University; Aalto University

Date Written: 2012


Most academics, who as researchers and teachers dedicate their lives to information sharing, would likely agree with much of the hacker ethic, which is a belief that information-sharing is a powerful positive good and there is an ethical duty to share expertise by writing free and open-source code and facilitating access to information wherever possible. However, despite a well-established gift culture similar to that of the open source software movement in academic publishing and the tenure process many academics fail to openly provide the “source” (e.g. data sets, literature reviews, detailed experimental methodologies, designs, and open access to results) of their research. Closed research is particularly egregious when it could be used to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world and this transition is hobbled by antiquated research methodologies that slow the diffusion of innovation. To overcome this challenge, this paper reports on several experiments to embrace the use of open source methodologies in research for applied sustainability. Open-access and open-edit Internet technologies were used as both real-time research tools and a means of disseminating findings on appropriate technology and sustainability-related research to the broadest possible audience. The results of experiments on open source research found that more rapid deployment of sustainability technologies is possible by building on the foundations of the hacker ethic with i) massive peer-review in the development of background material and experimental design, ii) increased visibility, which leads to, iii) increased funding opportunities and improved student recruitment, and iv) improved student research-related training and education.

Keywords: open source, research, sustainability, applied sustainability, open source appropriate technology, research policy, sustainability science

JEL Classification: C9

Suggested Citation

Pearce, Joshua M., Open Source Research in Sustainability (2012). Sustainability the Journal of Record, 5(4), pp. 238-243, 2012, Available at SSRN:

Michigan Technological University ( email )

Houghton, MI 49931
United States


Aalto University ( email )

P.O. Box 21210
Helsinki, 00101

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