What is a Knowledge System? 

According to Webster’s dictionary, to “know” is to “hold something in one’s mind as true or as being what it purport to be”…[this] “implies a sound logical or factual basis” [and it also means] “to be convinced of….” By extension, knowledge refers to the “fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association….. Accordingly, what is ‘known’ is that which is ‘generally recognized…’? 

We extend this standard view of knowledge to take into account a cluster of understandings that we refer to as a knowledge system. Thus, we define a knowledge system as:

An organized structure and dynamic process (a) generating and representing content, components, classes, or types of knowledge, that is (b) domain specific or characterized by domain-relevant features as defined by the user or consumer, (c) reinforced by a set of logical relationships that connect the content of knowledge to its value (utility), (d) enhanced by a set of iterative processes that enable the evolution, revision, adaptation, and advances, and (e) subject to criteria of relevance, reliability, and quality.

GSSD System Architecture

The basic architecture of GSSD is applicable to a wide range of issues and problems characterized by uncertainty, complexity, and contextual diversity. The current operational system is an application of the generic GSSD architecture to the domain of “sustainable development.” This application is undertaken by specifying a set of interconnected, multi-dimensional relationships among actors, levels, and units.

These relationships are defined in terms of: (a) activities at different levels and units; (b) problems generated by human impacts on social and natural systems; coupled with knowledge about (c) technical solutions as well as (d) economic and regulatory strategies; and (e) international coordination and responses.

The GSSD knowledge base is organized around 14 core concepts. Each concept is further differentiated in terms of content-specificity and embedded in an integrated knowledge structure. See Mapping Sustainability.

Formal Statement

What is the GSSD Knowledge Content?

The contents of the knowledge base consist of a body of selected (quality controlled) Internet resources; each item is tagged and the content summarized in an abstract. The system as a whole constitutes a knowledge meta-network (since it is a network of networks). Individual items in the knowledge base are cross-referenced and cross-indexed to facilitate understanding the linkages among issues and problems, as well as strategies and solutions - and enhance integration of alternative views of and perspectives on sustainability. See the following:

  1. Multilingualism
  2. Knowledge/Data Types 
  3. Knowledge Provision and Management
  4. Knowledge Sources
  5. Guide to Core Concepts

Navigation & Search

Navigation and search mechanisms operate over the GSSD knowledge base. The knowledge base itself is initially generated through prior (screened) selection of quality controlled materials.

1. Graphic navigation options consist of three mechanisms enabling users to:

Search by slice focusing on subject, topic, or issue (e.g., energy, population, etc.)
Search by ring focusing on activity, problem or solution type (i.e., specific socio-economic problems, such as distorting effects of energy subsidies, specific technical intervention, etc.)
Search by cell focusing on the intersection of a specific slice and ring (e.g., scientific and technical solutions to sustainable forest use)

2. Text based options consist of two mechanisms:

Simple search – user-defined text search (e.g., China, energy, population) including term weighting
Advanced search – user-specified selection of criteria from a complex menu of choices (such as China, solar energy, imports from Japan, concessional rates, for rural use in Northeast China) along with the above text search options.