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A shared research agenda in the area of ICT for environmental sustainability

ICT-ENSURE has used a mix of approaches to articulate the research demand from the environmental research community. The regional workshops, EnviroInfo workshops, expert survey, and questionnaires all provided different ways of eliciting user needs, allowing for inductive
approaches based on brainstorming and scenario techniques as well as direct approaches. What has emerged from these efforts is a vision of a new research community that overcomes the distinction of developers of ICT and environmental scientists “using” ICT with an integrated, multi-disciplinary community “co-designing” new approaches that integrate the development of new methodologies in environmental research with new ICT tools and services.

This requires a broad reference framework to orient both communities – environmental researchers and ICT researchers – with a common understanding of the scope and purpose of the different research tasks at hand. While much of ICT-ENSURE has been based on thematic frameworks – structured in the larger array of key areas and subsequently in four selected focus areas (energy efficiency, climate change, natural resources and biodiversity) – this approach is less useful to the ICT community, which instead tends to work according to abstract processes that are then applied to specific thematic domains.

For this, the dominant process model in the field of environmental research is the DPSIR model as used by the European Environmental Agency, which essentially defines a sequence of states or actions, as shown in the following figure.

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As the application of ICT in the field of environmental sustainability can be seen as facilitating or enabling a process , more that representing a state, it was to decide to strictly focus on the process dimension of this model, namely what happens between the five elements.

Based on this we can define five areas of potential and research demands for ICT:

  1. Driving Forces – Pressure: ICT supporting environmentally sustainable human behaviours and economic activities
  2. Pressure – State: ICT supporting our understanding of the environment and the impacts of human activity on it
  3. State – Impact: ICT supporting our ability to assess the impact of climate and environmental changes on human livelihood
  4. Impact – Response: ICT supporting the formulation and evaluation of strategies and policies to address environmental challenges
  5. Response – Driving Forces: ICT supporting the implementation of strategies and policies for environmental sustainability.