This project is a dynamic Research Guide to the principal findings of sustainability science. The goal of the project is to provide a synthesis of research in the field that highlights its principle insights and their practical implications for the pursuit of sustainable development. We have shaped the project in a way that we hope will prove useful for graduate seminars in sustainability science, for established scholars seeking to locate their work within this sprawling field, or to catch up on important findings in parts that are not their own. We hope that it will help to catalyze new collaborations across distant parts of this rapidly expanding and evolving community of researchers working on the problem of sustainable development. The project is grounded in material we assembled as background for a brief review of sustainability science we recently published in Annual Review of Environment and Resources. (See entry on ‘Genealogy’ at the bottom of this page). We seek now to move substantially beyond that review, expanding and revising existing sections, adding new ones, and updating its principal findings in the light of rapidly expanding research in the field.
Our basic strategy for doing so is to build on our initial material through as an experiment in collaboration and community publishing. Key features of the experiment are that it is open access (so everyone can benefit from it), modular (so users can select what they need and ignore the rest), dynamic (so it can be updated), and collaborative (so that it can benefit from the wide range of approaches and perspectives of the community). In particular, we invite members of the sustainability science community to collaborate with us through open review and annotation of portions of the evolving Research Guide that interest them, through invited commentaries, or through suggestions regarding new sections that should be added to make the Guide more useful.
The structure of the site hosting this experiment allows all readers to see all collaborative contributions and who is responsible for them, to engage with them (e.g., by commenting on others’ comments), and to benefit from them (e.g., by having graduate students discuss the posted comments and criticisms of the main text). We believe this experiment—if supported by the community—could serve several valuable functions. First, it could help to bridge the various island empires of sustainability science through engagement of multiple research programs and perspectives and inclusion of their insights in a dynamically evolving community product. Second, it could serve as a teaching tool that not only synthesizes progress in sustainability science but also highlights for discussion unanswered questions and ongoing debates. Finally, it could help to develop a more equitable community of sustainability science researchers, with its products open to access by all rather than restricted to those able to navigate paywalls and other barriers to the free and open exchange of ideas.
Genealogy of this Research Guide
An early draft of this Guide was published as Clark, William C., and Alicia G. Harley. 2019. Sustainability Science: Towards a Synthesis. Sustainability Science Program Working Paper 2019-01, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. (http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42574531). A shorter version, designed as a static review of the literature, was published as Clark, William C., and Alicia G. Harley. 2020. “Sustainability Science: Toward a Synthesis.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 45 (1). https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-012420-043621.
The on-line, open access version of the Research Guide we present here is designed to grow via community input through multiple revised versions of individual sections. The appropriate citation for the Guide as a whole is: Harley, Alicia G., and William C. Clark. (current year). Sustainability Science: A guide for researchers. (1st ed.) https://www.doi.org/10.21428/f8d85a02.9312c7d2. Available at https://www.sustainabilityscience.org/guide. Citations for the current version of the individual sections of the Guide can always be obtained through the “CITE” button on the home page of that section.