Electrical and Computer Engineering Publications

Open source research in sustainability

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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. This transition is hobbled by antiquated research methodologies that slow the diffusion of innovation. To overcome this challenge, this article reports on a study 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 this study on open source research found that more rapid deployment of sustainability technologies is possible by building on the foundations of the hacker ethic with: 1.) massive peer review in the development of background material and experimental design; 2.) increased visibility, which leads to 3.) increased funding opportunities and improved student recruitment; and 4.) improved student research-related training and education.

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