Why are we doing this? We set out on the experiment in collaboration and community publishing for sustainability science as a response to our conviction that the field of sustainability science remains less than the sum of its impressive parts. The diversity of academic disciplines, research programs, and practical experience that have contributed to the field are in many ways a strength, bringing potentially complementary bodies of theory, data, and methods to bear on the challenges of sustainable development. But this has also meant that the sciences of sustainability are sometimes isolated in their own “island empires,” separated by their own idiosyncratic origins, terminologies, publication venues, case studies, and conceptual frameworks. No single annual conference or academic journal or professional society yet provides a place where all of us from our respective islands regularly gather to learn one another’s languages and explore potential complementarities among our various perspectives. The modest community building experiment represented by this site is an attempt to construct one such gathering place. We are under no illusion that this experiment alone can do much to mitigate the field’s centrifugal tendencies. But if you, our colleagues, are willing to join us, perhaps it can help.
What can you do? The most important thing you can do to make this experiment work is to actively collaborate in it. That collaboration can take many forms.
It all starts with a simple sign up on PubPub, a product of the Knowledge Futures Group, a nonprofit that develops and sustains open source communications infrastructure. (The sign up, done here, takes less than a minute, is cost- and hassle-free. We use it only to be sure that the community collaborating on this site consists of real people rather than bots. More information on PubPub—which we have found to be a wonderful host—is at the end of this note.)
At the simplest level, you can browse existing projects on the site (see the Navigation Bar above). For anything you see here that you want for your own use, e.g., in teaching or research, you are welcome to download and deploy it subject only to the norms of citation for academic sources. This is the Open Access aspect of the site.
For anything you see that interests you, please add your comments. When your interest is in a particular phrase or sentence or paragraph, you can highlight it and then add a comment in the margin that raises a question or refutes an assertion or extends the argument or adds a citation. When your interest is in a section as a whole, you can use the Comment entry at the end of that section for your remarks. We are particularly interested in more extended commentaries that offer additional perspectives on whole sections or projects. We will be commissioning several such commentaries from scholars with special expertise but invite queries from other interested individuals who would like to write their own extended commentary on arguments put forth in the projects hosted here. Just write the site editors here. Whatever way you choose to enter your comments, they will be visible to any other member of the community, who in turn will be able to comment on your comments, download them, etc. This is the Collaborative aspect of the site.
At the strategic level, collaboration means helping us to make this site more interesting and helpful to the community. That includes suggestions on how to make the existing site better. But we also welcome ideas (and volunteers to implement them) about additional sections that should be added to the existing projects as well as additional projects that should be considered. We also welcome comments and ideas about the undertaking as a whole. Please share your ideas with the editors here. This is the Community Publishing aspect of the site.
Who is on the editorial team? If this experiment is to succeed in building a dynamic community for collaboration and publishing in sustainability science, it will need a dynamic editorial team to help it along. We’ve started small and local, with a team drawn from the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University. We’ve collaborated on research, teaching, and program development over the years and have seeded this site with some of our own work and ideas. We hope there will be enough interest in the experiment that additional members of the team will be needed and willing. Let us know your thoughts.
Alicia Harley is a founding editor for the site. At Harvard, she is a Research Scholar in the Sustainability Science Program and a Lecturer in the Environmental Science and Public Policy Program. Her research focuses on the role of actors and institutions in shaping development pathways in the Anthropocene System. More here.
Bill Clark is also a founding member of the editorial team. At Harvard, he directs the Sustainability Science Program and chairs the Kennedy School’s International and Global Affairs Program. His research focuses on the creation and deployment of useful knowledge for advancing sustainable development. More here.
Nora O’Neil is managing editor for the site. At Harvard, she is Associate Director of the Sustainability Science Program. More here.
What platform is hosting this experiment? This experiment is hosted by PubPub, which describes itself as “an open-source, privacy-respecting, all-in-one collaborative publishing platform for communities small and large.” PubPub is supported by MIT’s Knowledge Futures Group and is “committed to providing a free version of PubPub forever, releasing open-source code, and operating under non-profit, sustainable, researcher-friendly business models.” We have been delighted in our interactions with them in launching this site. More information about PubPub is available here.