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Special Issue "Emerging Research on Socio-Technological Sustainability Transitions"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Laura Schmitt Olabisi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, Michigan State University, 220 Trowbridge Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Interests: systems modeling; climate adaptation; resilience; systems change; participatory modeling; decision making; technological transitions; risk
Dr. Douglas Bessette
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University, 220 Trowbridge Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Interests: clean energy; decision science; risk
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue addresses the theory and practice of socio-technological change in complex socio-ecological systems. It is widely accepted that a transition to a more sustainable global environment will require technological solutions (e.g., renewable energy, improved crop varieties) as well as social and political change. Adoption of new technologies is often slow, even when their benefits are clear from a scientific perspective. As technology is introduced, the social, political, economic, cultural, and ecological contexts in which it operates also change, necessitating new and integrated decision making around the risks, barriers, and opportunities posed by the technology. Decision-makers rarely have access to research or information that can present these considerations in a systemic way. In this issue, we propose to lay the foundation for a new field of study centered on socio-technological system transitions, with the goal of increasing the rate and success of implementing technology that advances sustainability while improving quality of life and protecting core values. This new field will bring together researchers from engineering, natural and social sciences, and humanities, as well as policy makers and stakeholders in a transdisciplinary approach.

Dr. Laura Schmitt Olabisi
Dr. Douglas Bessette
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Technology adoption
  • Systems change
  • Transdisciplinary

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Article
On the Road of Discovery with Systemic Exploratory Constellations: Potentials of Online Constellation Exercises about Sustainability Transitions
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 5101; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13095101 - 01 May 2021
Viewed by 865
Abstract
Sustainability transitions are shaped by specific dynamics, dependencies, and influences among the actors and elements that are part of the system. Systemic constellations as a social science research method can offer tangible visualizations of such system dynamics and thereby extract valuable, often hidden [...] Read more.
Sustainability transitions are shaped by specific dynamics, dependencies, and influences among the actors and elements that are part of the system. Systemic constellations as a social science research method can offer tangible visualizations of such system dynamics and thereby extract valuable, often hidden knowledge for research. This article builds on two online exploratory system constellation exercises about sustainability transitions, with two major objectives: (i) to introduce and disseminate (exploratory) systemic constellations as a method for (sustainability) research, and (ii) to extract their potential for (online) collaborative and transdisciplinary research, with a focus on sustainability transitions. Our exploratory research design includes participatory action research that took place during the virtual International Sustainability Transitions Conference 2020, Vienna, Austria. Data were analyzed following an interpretative-hermeneutic approach. The main findings consist of visualizations about sustainability transition dynamics between selected actors in Germany and Portugal that are discussed in light of the literature on constellation work and sustainability transitions, triggering new assumptions: (i) a strong sustainability narrative does not (necessarily) lead to action and transformation and (ii) transformation requires integrating narratives beyond weak and strong sustainability. We conclude with a list of potentials of exploratory constellations for sustainability research and online formats that offer novelties such as a constant bird-eye perspective on the system while simultaneously engaging with the system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emerging Research on Socio-Technological Sustainability Transitions)
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Article
Understanding Socio-Technological Systems Change through an Indigenous Community-Based Participatory Framework
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 2257; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042257 - 19 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1159
Abstract
Moving toward a sustainable global society requires substantial change in both social and technological systems. This sustainability is dependent not only on addressing the environmental impacts of current social and technological systems, but also on addressing the social, economic and political harms that [...] Read more.
Moving toward a sustainable global society requires substantial change in both social and technological systems. This sustainability is dependent not only on addressing the environmental impacts of current social and technological systems, but also on addressing the social, economic and political harms that continue to be perpetuated through systematic forms of oppression and the exclusion of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. To adequately identify and address these harms, we argue that scientists, practitioners, and communities need a transdisciplinary framework that integrates multiple types of knowledge, in particular, Indigenous and experiential knowledge. Indigenous knowledge systems embrace relationality and reciprocity rather than extraction and oppression, and experiential knowledge grounds transition priorities in lived experiences rather than expert assessments. Here, we demonstrate how an Indigenous, experiential, and community-based participatory framework for understanding and advancing socio-technological system transitions can facilitate the co-design and co-development of community-owned energy systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emerging Research on Socio-Technological Sustainability Transitions)
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Article
Utility-Scale Solar in the Great Lakes: Analyzing Community Reactions to Solar Developments
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1677; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041677 - 04 Feb 2021
Viewed by 746
Abstract
In the coming years, it is expected that reliance on utility-scale solar projects for energy production will increase exponentially. As a result, communities throughout the Midwest will become potential solar facility hosts. Previous research has sought to identify factors that influence community support [...] Read more.
In the coming years, it is expected that reliance on utility-scale solar projects for energy production will increase exponentially. As a result, communities throughout the Midwest will become potential solar facility hosts. Previous research has sought to identify factors that influence community support and opposition to solar developments throughout the country. This paper builds upon prior research by examining community perceptions about the economic, environmental, local and global impact of solar projects in four Great Lakes states using a content analysis of local newspaper articles. Ultimately, this paper identifies the most common perceptions of solar facilities and offers some preliminary suggestions on strategies to mitigate the most prevalent concerns. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emerging Research on Socio-Technological Sustainability Transitions)
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Article
Applying a Relationally and Socially Embedded Decision Framework to Solar Photovoltaic Adoption: A Conceptual Exploration
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 711; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020711 - 13 Jan 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1019
Abstract
Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy technology can play a key role in decreasing the amount of carbon emissions associated with electrical energy production, while also providing an economically justifiable alternative to fossil fuel production. Solar energy technology is also extremely flexible in terms of [...] Read more.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy technology can play a key role in decreasing the amount of carbon emissions associated with electrical energy production, while also providing an economically justifiable alternative to fossil fuel production. Solar energy technology is also extremely flexible in terms of the size and siting of technological development. Large scale PV farms, however, require access to large tracts of land, which can create community-scale conflict over siting solar energy development projects. While previous scholarship offers frameworks for understanding the mechanisms at play in socio-technological system transitions, including the renewable energy transition, those frameworks fail to center community priorities, values, and concerns, and therefore often do not provide an effective means of addressing community conflict over solar siting. This paper provides a conceptual exploration of how a proposed framework can guide decision making for solar development across multiple scales and settings, while also illuminating the potential barriers and bottlenecks that may limit the potential of solar energy development to occur in scales and forms that receive community acceptance and at the pace necessary to address the greenhouse gas emissions currently contributing to the rapidly changing global climate. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emerging Research on Socio-Technological Sustainability Transitions)
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Article
Can Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Achieve Justice in Transitioning to 100% Renewable Electricity? Survey of Public Perceptions in Sociotechnical Change
Sustainability 2021, 13(1), 431; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13010431 - 05 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1215
Abstract
The cost of energy in the Western Upper Peninsula (WUP), a rural and northern part of the state of Michigan, is among the highest in the United States. This situation has resulted in hardship for WUP residents due to exorbitant electricity bills. While [...] Read more.
The cost of energy in the Western Upper Peninsula (WUP), a rural and northern part of the state of Michigan, is among the highest in the United States. This situation has resulted in hardship for WUP residents due to exorbitant electricity bills. While interest in renewable electricity (RE) has increased in the region, the unanswered questions are what factors would make WUP residents more or less supportive of a transition to 100% RE, and how does the support for a 100% RE transition differ between counties in the WUP? This research analyzed factors that would make residents more or less supportive of a 100% RE transition in the WUP. This research investigated public perceptions through a quantitative residents’ survey (N = 347). Using logistic regression, the results show that residents’ likelihood to participate in a municipality-led initiative that will reduce their consumption by 5% is statistically significant to their probability of support for wind energy development at p < 0.05. Furthermore, the likelihood of 100% RE transition support is very high across WUP counties, with a similar trend for project preferences. The results in this research can provide a roadmap for future community-engaged planning on 100% RE in various counties in the region. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emerging Research on Socio-Technological Sustainability Transitions)
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Article
Communicating the Risks and Benefits of Human Urine-Derived Fertilizer
Sustainability 2020, 12(23), 9973; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12239973 - 28 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 814
Abstract
Ensuring long-term access to nutrients needed for food production is a growing global challenge. Human urine diversion and recycling is a viable and energy-efficient means of recovering nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium from wastewater. Before implementation, however, it is critical to understand how communicating [...] Read more.
Ensuring long-term access to nutrients needed for food production is a growing global challenge. Human urine diversion and recycling is a viable and energy-efficient means of recovering nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium from wastewater. Before implementation, however, it is critical to understand how communicating differently about human urine-derived fertilizer may influence its public acceptance. This study tests how different strategies of communication (video compared to texts), as well as different amounts of information, impact public acceptance. We also explored how specific characteristics, such as age and education level, may impact the usefulness of the different strategies of communication. The results indicate that short and long videos are the most useful risk communication strategies, and age fully moderates this relationship. This research may serve as a jumping off point for future studies focused on how risk communication strategies may affect consumer acceptance of other emerging food technologies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Emerging Research on Socio-Technological Sustainability Transitions)
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