I’ve finally managed to post the results of our workshop on Software Research and Climate Change, held at Onward/Oopsla last month. We did lots of brainstorming, and attempted to cluster the ideas, as you can see in the photos of our sticky notes.

After the workshop, I attempted to boil down the ideas even further, and came up with three clusters of research:

  1. Green IT (i.e. optimize power consumption of software and all things controlled by software (also known as “make sure ICT is no longer part of the problem”). Examples of research in this space include:
    • Power aware computing (better management of power in all devices from mobile to massive installations).
    • Green controllers (smart software to optimize and balance power consumption in everything that consumes power).
    • Sustainability as a first class requirement in software system design.
  2. Computer-Supported Collaborative Science (also known as eScience – i.e. software to support and accelerate inter-disciplinary science in climatology and related disciplines). Examples of research in this space include:
    • Software engineering tools/techniques for climate modellers
    • Data management for data-intensive science
    • Open Notebook science (electronic notebooks)
    • Social network tools for knowledge finding and expertise mapping
    • Smart ontologies
  3. Software to improve global collective decision making (which includes everything from tools to improve public understanding of science through to decision support at multiple levels: individual, community, government, inter-governmental,…). Examples of research in this space include:
    • Simulations, games, educational software to support public understanding of the science (usable climate science)
    • massive open collaborative decision support
    • carbon accounting for corporate decision making
    • systems analysis of sustainability in human activity systems (requires multi-level systems thinking)
    • better understanding of the processes of social epistemology

My personal opinion is that (1) is getting to be a crowded field,  which is great, but will only yield up to about 15% of the 100% reduction in carbon emissions we’re aiming for. (2) is has been mapped out as part of several initiatives in the UK and US on eScience, but  there’s still a huge amount to be done. (3) is pretty much a green  field (no pun intended) at the moment. It’s this third area that  fascinates me the most.