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Dr Chris Foulds, Anglia Ruskin University

09 August 2020, 8:14 UTC Share

Energy-PIECES: providing policy secondments for early career researchers

Policy has focused on gathering evidence and insights from the more technical disciplines. Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) research has often been overlooked as an evidence base, especially within energy policy making.

Energy-related SSH (energy-SSH) disciplines have the potential to offer useful insights in areas such as governance frameworks, social dimensions of policy, social value, or inclusive approaches to technical solutions, to name only a few.

The Energy-PIECES (Energy Policy Insights from Early Career Events and Secondments) project was coordinated by Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI), alongside The University of Cambridge’s Centre for Science & Policy (CSaP). It was funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), via the UK Energy Research Centre’s (UKERC) Whole Systems Networking Fund.

Energy-PIECES had two main activities:

• An energy policy masterclass on how SSH can better connect with energy policy and policy makers, held in Cambridge on 10 December 2018.

• A set of seven-week paid energy-SSH policy secondments, for PhD or early career researchers (ECR), which took place in 2019.

The core purpose of the secondments was for new voices to participate in dialogue with key policy players around tangible policy questions, where SSH had much to offer. The secondments were hosted by the UK Government Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Energy Saving Trust, Energy Cities, EDF Energy, and Practical Action. The six secondees included Sioned Haf (Bangor University), Stephanie A Hirmer (University of Cambridge), Rihab Khalid (University of Cambridge), Pip Roddis (University of Leeds), Lauren Stabler (Anglia Ruskin University), and George Warren (Kings College London).

A number of high-quality applications were received. As such, our experiences only reinforced the argument that there is a gap in opportunities for ECRs to engage with policy makers. In addition, the project revealed significant appetite from policy organisations themselves to work with energy-SSH ECRs, with many new organisations expressing keen interest in possible future schemes.

Building on our experience

Building on the success of the secondments, we developed a report that sets out recommendations from the Energy-PIECES projects on how to successfully organise, manage and communicate about PhD and ECR secondments, with a range of policy-facing institutions. Having observed an appetite for similar schemes to be run in the future, we drew upon our experiences as scheme organisers – as well as the experiences of the secondees themselves – to offer our joint reflections.

Specifically, we detailed what we thought others could benefit from knowing if they were to organise a similar SSH research-policy engagement scheme in the future. Our four sets of recommendations included: general organisation for the secondment; use and production of knowledge and research; production of outcomes and outputs, and their related communication; and organisational considerations for scheme organisers.

Whilst our learnings were deep and varied across the secondments, our recommendations capture important take-home messages that we suggest could be a basis of any similar future schemes.

Download the recommendations report here.

Secondee reports

Each of the secondees produced a publicly available (and peer reviewed) report that responded to the respective energy policy dilemmas put forward by their secondment hosts. Each report reviewed existing literature, to showcase what energy-SSH insights were already on hand to policy-facing organisations; as such, the reports also included tangible policy recommendations.

The reports can be accessed through the following links:

• ‘Better’ domestic energy advice in England? A narrative literature review. By George Warren and Chris Foulds.

• Exploring social value in the context of nationally significant infrastructure projects: a case study of Hinkley Point C. By Pip Roddis and Rosie Robison.

• The social dimensions of moving away from gas cookers and hobs: challenges and opportunities in transition to low-carbon cooking. By Rihab Khalid and Chris Foulds.

• Policy options for enhancing productive uses of energy in low-resource settings in the Global South. By Stephanie A Hirmer and Rosie Robison.

• How local authorities can encourage citizen participation. By Sioned Haf and Rosie Robison.

• Governing the UK’s transition to decarbonised heating: lessons from a systematic review of past and ongoing heat transitions. By Lauren Stabler and Chris Foulds.

Dr Chris Foulds is Principal Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (Cambridge, UK).

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