ICT applications in the research into environmental sustainability: a user preferences approach
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- Chiabai, A., Rübbelke, D. & Maurer, L. Environ Dev Sustain (2013) 15: 81. doi:10.1007/s10668-012-9376-2
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Whether information and communication technology (ICT) constitutes a threat or a cure to environment’s deterioration is controversially discussed. Empirical evidence on the impacts of ICT is rare, so that generalizable lessons can hardly be drawn. This study provides empirical results on the role of ICT in research for environmental sustainability, but instead of ascertaining the impact of ICT on environmental protection, we conduct an analysis of the use of ICT in sustainability research. We assess the preferences of experts in different thematic sustainability fields for applying ICT tools, and we investigate ways to improve the application of these tools in order to augment their returns with respect to environmental protection research. This analysis is based on a set of surveys that were administered to international experts to evaluate the importance of ICT in environmental sustainability research and the research demands in key environmental sectors, such as climate change, natural resources, energy and biodiversity. The methodological framework is built on the analysis of users’ preferences for future developments in ICT tools using stated preferences techniques. Overall results suggest that ICT tools need to be developed in specific contexts, taking into account users’ needs and expectations. Our analysis shows that the use of ICT in environmental research is of great importance in the scientific community, but it can also play a crucial role in the policy context.