Why these search results?
In presenting search results, SHIFT strives to hold the tension between two objectives:
- We aim to accelerate sustainability efforts by helping our users “avoid reinventing the wheel” because they did not find existing information, frameworks, and tools. This objective pushes us toward comprehensiveness in our search results, and we strive to ensure that for any topic in sustainability, we show at least some content available.
- We also aim to help users “separate the wheat from the chaff” since some topics have an over-abundance of resources, with widely variable quality. This objective pushes us toward quality as a filter for what we include.
What you find here is therefore a partly curated search engine. Resources appear in the SHIFT results through the following processes:
- We identify multi-stakeholder organizations who have already done curation, and we develop agreements to bring their resource bases into SHIFT. Examples include WBCSD and Natural Capital Coalition and the Social & Human Capital Coalition, Ceres, Environmental Defense Fund, and the CEO Water Mandate.
- We use volunteer and paid curators from among our network of practitioners (many of whom have some tie to MIT Sloan’s Sustainability Initiative) to help identify and upload tools into our database. We ask them to hold the tension between comprehensiveness and quality.
- When curating resources for the platform, SHIFT leverages machine-reading technology to assist in the process. This technology “reads” documents and websites, and it quantifies the relevance of each resource as it relates to every category in the SHIFT taxonomy. Humans always have the final say, but the machine does much of the heavy lifting in determining how resources should get ranked in the search results. While using a machine helps curators do their work more quickly and more objectively, a disadvantage is that the machine doesn’t always get it right. Sometimes, the search results that you see do not reflect the most relevant resources available on the platform.
Ultimately, MIT and SHIFT do not endorse any of the search results found by using this website. Our goal is simply to catalog the information, frameworks, and tools out there. We also understand that many other tools exist that we have yet to identify and index in the platform.
How we think about quality
When we do make a judgment for quality, SHIFT uses the following criteria:
1. How transparent are the methodologies that went into the development of the tool?
2. Is there any research basis or academic peer review to support the efficacy of the tool?
3. Is it evident that practitioners have used the tool in practice?
This quality assessment is for internal purposes and it functions as a screening mechanism for determining what resources should or should not be indexed. Just because a resource appears on the platform, however, does not mean that all three criteria have been met, nor that MIT or SHIFT thinks it is necessarily credible.
SHIFT is still in the early stages of its evolution, and we will continue to experiment as we work to improve the platform. As always, we welcome you to reach out if you have any feedback or suggestions for improving the site by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.