SHAPE ENERGY Think Piece Collection

Visions for the Energy Union: Driving future energy policy through better integration of Social Sciences and Humanities

For too long energy-related Social Sciences and Humanities (energy-SSH) research has been overlooked as an evidence base for energy policy. Consequently, the European Commission (EC) are keen to more centrally utilise insights from energy-SSH, to complement and/or contrast with the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathemathics (STEM) disciplines that have dominated energy policymaking to date. This has led to EC calls for more policy-relevant energy-SSH research, as well as promotion of greater interdisciplinarity in energy (policy) research. Such moves are hoped to assist in fulfilling its European Energy Union ambitions, which involve: connecting national energy infrastructures; improving energy security; reducing energy use by ≥27% by 2030; and reducing emissions by ≥40% by 2030; to name only a few headlines.

In these contexts, the SHAPE ENERGY Platform is funding around eight interdisciplinary and cross-European written contributions – of around 3,000-4,000 words each – that explore, critique and showcase the ways that different disciplinary approaches can (and should be) integrated for the betterment of future EU energy policy. The resulting Think Piece Collection will intentionally treat the notion of ‘integration’ broadly, thus contributions are welcome that span differences both within SSH, but also across the SSH and STEM divide. Whilst a central thread of the collection will be EU energy policy, the basis for each piece’s discussion need not be at the EU-level (e.g. can use regional/national experiences). Furthermore, we particularly welcome contributions that suggest directions (even if intentionally idealistic) for future academia-policy interactions. Examples of relevant energy-related themes include (but are not limited to):

  • What is unique to the ‘energy’ problem(s) in matters of integration?
  • What exactly is ‘successful’ integration, and what is it that is being ‘integrated’ (e.g. disciplines, ontologies, approaches, etc.)?
  • What are disciplines, how do they emerge, and with what implications for energy policy?
  • At what stage of the research process does/should integration typically begin and with what implications, e.g. during problem definition, research design planning, data analysis, etc.?
  • Energy-related project experiences of (not) integrating the Social Sciences and Humanities (well).
  • Experiences of integration in energy-related project planning, proposal writing, and in general interactions with the Horizon 2020 energy work programmes and other EU funding programmes.
  • Crucially, the ontological practicalities of bringing together contrasting theoretical perspectives, including overviews of how theories may be innovatively integrated for the benefit of policy.
  • Novel tools that have been developed and/or underutilised in the pursuit of integration.
  • Dominance of disciplines, including overcoming traditional sub-ordination of SSH to STEM.
  • What do policymakers want from integration of energy-SSH, and how does this compare to academics’ expectations?
  • How do policymakers respond to the outcomes/outputs of integration, which e.g. may provide further complexity?
  • A future vision for the academic system, e.g. regarding policy interactions, researcher positionality, interdisciplinarity, etc.
  • SSH critiques (including outlines of alternatives) of key EU energy policy documents, such as those associated with the Strategic Energy Technology Plan or 2030 Energy Strategy.
  • What are the energy-SSH priorities, or perhaps most meaningful ways of identifying such priorities, for energy-related funding in the EU Framework Programme 9 (planned to run post-Horizon 2020, across 2021-2028)?

Whilst it is by no means required, we are open to alternative ways of writing the pieces (that e.g. facilitate greater reflexivity or accessibility), and thus prospective authors should not necessarily feel obliged to structure their pieces in conventional academic ways (e.g. author teams could write autobiographic reflections, stories representing future visions, conversational exchanges between idealised fictious individuals, etc.). Note also that discussions are underway with prospective publishers about the Think Piece Collection being published as an open access edited book. Forewords are additionally being negotiated with high-profile individuals within the EU (energy) policymaking community.

List of all abstracts and academic groups involved. 

Authors  Title
Bridge, G., Barca, S., Ozkaynak, B., Turhan, E. Value Towards a Political Ecology of EU Energy Policy
Middlemiss, L., Straver, K., Pellicer-Sifres, V.,Gillard, R. Connecting the lived experience with energy poverty management: a new governance paradigm
Kerr, S., Watts, L., Brennan, R., Wright, G., Howell, R., Wynne, B. Shaping Blue Growth: Opportunities for social studies of marine energy to shape energy policy
Genus, A., Fahy, F., Laakso, S., Iskandarova, M., Goggins, G. Everyday Imaginaries and Everyday Practices:
Learning from ‘ENERGISE’ about the Integration of Social Science with the EU Energy Union
Wesseling, J., Turnheim, B., Binder, C.R., Rohracher, H., Truffler, B., van Vuuren, D. Challenges ahead: Understanding, assessing, and anticipating foreseeable societal tensions to support low-carbon transitions in European energy systems
Silvast, A., Bolton, R., Lagendijk, V., Dr Kacper Szulecki. K. Crossing borders: SSH perspectives on European electricity integration
Hiteva, R., Weijnen, M., Ives, M. In search of the energy nexus: technoeconomic modelling, ethnographies and social interactions
Susan Bright, Juliette Sénéchal, Magdalena Habdas, Vincent Sagaert, David Weatherall,Tina Fawcett, Dr. Frankie McCarthy, Sandra
Building Governance and energy efficiency: Mapping the inter-disciplinary challenge
Darby, S., Higginson, S., O’Dwyer, C., Andrade-Cabrera, C., Topouzi, M., Finn. D. Can thermal comfort be flexible? A sociotechnical question
Aberg, A., Hoffken, J., I., Lidstrom, S. Mind the gap: energy poverty and climatejustice
see complete abstracts here

Call for applications closed on 6 October 2017.

Indicative timeline:

  • October 2017 – notify prospective authors of successful abstract submissions;
  • End of April 2018 – authors submit think pieces to editors;
  • End of May 2018 – authors receive think piece peer reviews;
  • End of June 2018 – authors submit revised think pieces;
  • End of June 2018 – deadline for submission of receipts for reimbursement (one submission per team, one reimbursement per team);
  • July 2018 – proofs are produced and reviewed by editors and authors;
  • August 2018 – think pieces are published online (open access) and also submitted to the EC’s strategy unit for energy research and innovation.

Eligibility criteria

A team of prospective think piece co-authors will only be eligible if they:

Following confirmation that an application is indeed eligible, we will primarily assess abstracts on the basis of:

  • Relevance to the contents of the Call for Abstracts (and thereby also the four SHAPE ENERGY topics: Energy efficiency and using less; Competitive, secure, low-carbon energy supply; Energy system optimisation and smart technologies; Transport sector decarbonisation)

  • Academic quality

  • Novelty and evidence of interdisciplinarity

  • Realistic budgetary planning

We will also aspire to achieve a good balance of (1) gender, (2) geography (North, South, East, West of Europe), and (3) career trajectory (we will encourage early career researchers to apply too). In addition, given that it is a collection, we will make final selections based on synergies and common themes across the abstracts, to thereby help ensure that the collection as a whole has a strong narrative.


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