- Drop out of research. We recognise climate change is an urgent problem and that many scientific research projects have very indirect, uncertain, and long-term payoffs. For the most part, the problem of climate change is fairly well analysed and many solutions are known, but in need of political organisation in order to carry them out. Perhaps really what is needed is for more people to "roll up their sleeves" and join a movement or organisation that's fighting towards this.
- Engage in action research/participatory research. If you decide to stay in research then we propose that you ground your studies by working on problems that you can be sure real stakeholders have. In particular, we suggest that you start with a stakeholder that is directly involved in solving the problem (e.g. activists, scientists, journalists, politicians) and that you work with throughout your study. At the most basic level, they act as a reality-check for your ideas, but we think that the best way to make this relationship work is through action research: joining their organisation to solve their problems, becoming directly involved in the solutions yourself. Finding publishable results is an added bonus which is secondary to the pressing need.
- Elicit the requirements of real world stakeholders. As you can see from the last point, we're concerned that as software researchers we lack a good understanding of the problems holding us (society) back from dealing with climate change effectively. So, we suggest a specific research project that surveys all the actors to figure out their needs and the place the software research can contribute. This project would involve interviewing activists, scientists, journalists, politicians, and citizens to build a research roadmap.
- Green metrics: dealing with accountability in a carbon market. This idea is more vague, but simply a pointer to an area where we think software research may have some applicability. Assuming there is a compliance requirement for greenhouse gas pollution (e.g. a cap and trade system), then we will need to be able to accurately measure carbon emissions on all levels: from industry to homes.
- Software for emergencies. Like the last point, this is one rather vague. The idea is this: in doomsday future scenarios of climate change, the world is not a peaceful place. Potentially more decision-making is done by people in emergency situations. This context shift might change the rules for interface design: where say, in peacetime, a user might be unwilling to double-click on a link, or might be willing to spend time browsing menus, but in a disaster scenario their preferences may change. So, how exactly does a user's preferences change in an emergency, and how might we design software to adjust to them?
- Make video-conferencing actually easy. This was our experience all through the day:If we ever want to maintain our personal connections without traveling we need to solve this problem. You'd think that we had already solved it, as we have the basic technology already in place. We have Skype, it is just too flakey for relying on for important gatherings. Or, maybe, hotels and conference centres can't deal with the bandwidth demands. Or, maybe conference organisers don't make remote attendance a priority.
Even getting us through the basic technological obstacles may not be enough for a rich conference participation. Simply having a video and audio feed doesn't compare to face-to-face conversations. Maybe it never will, but certainly we can do better?
Notes from my graduate studies at the University of Toronto in the Department of Computer Science.
Monday, October 26, 2009
This morning Jorge and I attempted to attend the Workshop on Software Research on Climate Change via a skype phone call. But Skype wasn't cooperating. So, we had our a own mini-workshop ourselves. The purpose of the workshop is to respond to the challenge, "how can we apply our research strengths to make significant contributions to the problems of mitigation and adaptation of climate change?" But we interpreted the question as, "What can software researchers do to make significant contributions.... ?" As a result, we considered some alternatives that are probably out of scope for the workshop.
Posted by jon at 1:26 PM
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