Thursday, November 24, 2011

After 25 years, sustainability is a growing science that's here to stay

Indiana University News Room: Sustainability has not only become a science in the past 25 years, but it is one that continues to be fast-growing with widespread international collaboration, broad disciplinary composition and wide geographic distribution, according to new research from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Indiana University.

The findings...were assembled from a review of 20,000 academic papers written by 37,000 distinct authors representing 174 countries and over 2,200 cities. Authors of the paper, Los Alamos research scientist Luís M. A. Bettencourt, and Jasleen Kaur, a Ph.D. student in Indiana University Bloomington's School of Informatics and Computing, also identified the most productive cities for sustainability publications and estimated the field's growth rate, with the number of distinct authors doubling every 8.3 years. The study covered research generated from 1974 through 2010.

By analyzing the temporal evolution (distinct authors), geographic distribution, the discipline's footprint within traditional scientific disciplines, the structure and evolution of sustainability science's collaboration network, and the content of the publications, the authors ascertained that the field "has indeed become cohesive over the last decade, sharing large-scale collaboration networks to which most authors now belong and producing a new conceptual and technical unification that spans the globe."

..."The field is widely distributed internationally and has a strong presence not only in nations with traditional strength in science -- the U.S., Western Europe and Japan -- but also elsewhere," Kaur said. "It is also perhaps surprising that the world's leading city in terms of publications in the field is Washington, D.C., outpacing the productivity of Boston or the Bay Area, which in other fields are several fold greater than that of the U.S. capital."

Countries producing sustainability publications of noteworthy magnitude were Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Turkey. Productive cities included London, Stockholm, Wageningen in the Netherlands, Seattle, and Madison, Wisconsin....

Chart courtesy of Indiana University

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