Research as activism?

Jon Pipitone asks:

If there is one strand that connects any work that I do it is my desire to to be of some benefit to the world, and for that benefit to have a certain immediacy. I am concerned about issues such as peak oil and climate change that are so broad in their impact, so potentially disrupting, and so urgently in need of address that it is hard for me to think otherwise.  For me, being an activist is crucial. If I’m going to continue on in the PhD program I will need to find a way to make my research activism.


What I’m missing, I think, are good examples of researchers that are engaged in action research; folks that are researchers and also activists and have managed to blend the two well.  I can’t quite see yet how to apply the skills of a software researcher but if I had some examples of how others are doing it I think it would help.

So, know of anyone? (…)

If you do, I’d very much like to know, too—please share in the comments, or at Jon’s blog.

About Jorge Aranda

I'm currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the SEGAL and CHISEL labs in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria.
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3 Responses to Research as activism?

  1. Germán Póo-Caamaño says:

    That is what I am looking for, too. But, probably not everybody see Free Software as activism and probably it does not sound too important in comparison with peak oil or climate change.

    Nevertheless, my intention is precisely get results that I could apply with a certain immediacy. Unfortunately, publications are an obstacle rather than a help to spread the knowledge (on what matters to me).

  2. Hi Jorge,

    What about this guy?

    Stefano Zacchiroli is both a post-doc researcher in Paris and the Debian Project Leader. I believe you cannot be the DPL without being a true activist. Last year, he had a full paper at MSR in Cape Town, in which he was gracefully combining valuable software engineering research with useful software for the Debian project.


  3. Jorge Aranda says:

    Germán, Alberto:

    Hmm, yes, Free Software is a form of activism, one that goes very well with software research—Zacchiroli being a good example.

    I guess where I (and Jon, it seems) stumble is in figuring out how to do research-activism for the causes that I hold dearest, and that aren’t so well connected to software research as Free Software is. In particular I’m talking about climate change and the environmental movement…

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