Further strengthen the interconnectivity of communities. A flourishing ecosystem of knowledge sharing and exchange between communities relies on networks and platforms where projects, ideas and news can be openly distributed. Prior to the formation of OpenSustain.Tech, many organisations, users and developers found it difficult to navigate active projects in and across topics in OSS for sustainability. Strengthening the interconnectivity of communities can alleviate contributor risk, provide opportunities for greater participation, and build capacity for more effective collaboration. The emergence and convergence of diverse groups play a vital role in consolidating and further developing shared values, visions, mindsets and ideas embodied within open sustainability principles.
Provide maintainers with training and support to preserve open source projects. Maintainers must be trained in both software development as well as community and project management. Many lead developers are experts in their fields, however often lack the knowledge and experience required to build and maintain healthy communities around their projects, with marketing and other entrepreneurial activities often being neglected. In many cases, it is assumed that a high-quality project will quickly find users and contributors, which is not necessarily the case in practice. Unfortunately, there is a lack of training materials and opportunities tailored to the unique characteristics of OSS in sustainability. Providing documented approaches and training and support can help ensure that maintainers can build the community capacity required to preserve open source projects in the long term. One way to facilitate this is by establishing an open source program office within an organisation.
Connect projects to local use cases. Cities can play a central role in the application of various open source technologies as they translate research and development into action on the ground. However, the knowledge and the skills required to leverage the full potential of open source approaches are often lacking at this level. As a high degree of technical expertise is often required, it is necessary for OSS developers to integrate such technologies within user-friendly interfaces. At the same time, scientists and community groups working directly with local authorities will be key in bridging gaps between research, urban application, and policy development. All parties can benefit significantly from such a partnership. Local authorities can provide researchers and civic society with open data about the natural and built environment through a secure and standardised interface, while researchers can share digital resources and insights for local application and integration. Such open science approaches can enhance cross-sectoral collaborations, essential to answering important research questions and the continuous improvement of open source technologies. These multi-stakeholder alliances can build trust and transparency in the exchange of information, enhance data-driven decision-making, and foster a co-creation process with citizens and businesses based on local conditions and needs.
Maintain and defend an open orientation within academia. While many of the projects identified within this study are the outputs of publicly funded research, many research institutions are yet to embrace open science and promote open source as the default position. The reasons for this are vast, complex, and vary across regions, but is often the result of market forces and public policy, with universities increasingly adopting a for-profit orientation. While the protection of intellectual property remains common practice, research constantly demonstrates that regulatory and legal obstacles actively hampers innovation1,2. However, there is a clear desire among academics to abandon outdated intellectual property models. The majority of American and Canadian academics support an open orientation, encouraging universities to establish open source endowed chairs. Western Sydney University is one of the first academic institutions to make an official open source commitment of this kind. With more universities incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals into their internal strategies, we encourage both academics and administrators to evaluate their contribution towards these Global Goals within the context of open source and public-purpose value, particularly with respect to environmental sustainability. In light of this, we recommend that all publicly funded research within the fields of sustainability be made open access and open source by default, for the benefit of the people and the planet.
Support the use of open source products and software development within government. Open source approaches can give government agencies better control over technologies and sustainable outcomes. While the adoption of open source software and its principles is rarely reflected within official government policy, several public institutions have official measures in place to ensure the effective use of OSS. In 2016, the USA Government published a federal source code policy, The People’s Code. This policy mandates at least 20% of custom source code developed by USA federal agencies must be released as OSS and shared between agencies. Likewise, the European Commission’s internal Open Source Software Strategy “promotes the sharing and reuse of software solutions, knowledge and expertise, to deliver better European services that benefit society and lower costs to society.”. The benefits of using OSS products and open source software development across government towards sustainable applications are vast. Direct benefits include reducing the total cost of ownership, preventing costly vendor lock-in (at the expense to the taxpayer), improving digital autonomy, enhancing multi-scale and cross-agency interoperability, bolstering the security of infrastructure and digital services, and enhancing the co-design of digital services through community participation. The Open Source Software Guideline, published by the Queensland Government, highlights the expected benefits of using and developing open source software within government, and provides information for agencies considering adopting a similar approach.
Create open communities for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions through remote sensing. Although emissions are central to climate change, and Earth observation provides an unprecedented wealth of new data and information about our planet, our analysis highlights a lack of collaboration in this emerging field. Free access to satellite data from Sentinel-5P, GOSAT, GOSAT2, OCO1 or OCO2 could provide the basis for such collaboration. However, in many cases, the integration of these data into a common format is costly. There is also a lack of powerful and open transport models that can trace these emission measurements back to individual point sources. Although open repositories such as STILT and X-STILT exist for these models, open licences and communities are lacking. The first important steps in the right direction are shown by Emissions API and oco2peak. Monitoring point emissions through open and traceable satellite data and models has the long-term potential to prevent the obscuring of major emission sources and to attribute them to polluters.