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New energy research project builds on Sciencewise approach to engagement

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A new research project at the UK Energy Research Centre, led by Jason Chilvers at the University of East Anglia, is focusing on rethinking energy participation. The initial scoping note, produced in July 2015, draws on Sciencewise dialogue approaches and projects among other engagement approaches.

The project aims to consider participation in energy transitions, drawing on social science insights which they suggest currently lie outside the energy field. The drivers for the research include the risking importance of societal dimensions and the roles of citizens in tackling energy issues, and the need for energy research and policy to move beyond siloed and compartmentalised approaches into 'joined up' thinking. Sciencewise projects, the website and deliberative dialogue are referenced extensively, including:

"Deliberative democratic methods of engagement remain significant in UK Government decision-making around the energy system, in particular those undertaken by Government departments with support from the Sciencewise programme (cf. Pallett & Chilvers, 2013) or Research Councils (e.g. Chilvers et al. 2005).

"... the UK Government-funded Sciencewise programme has conducted public dialogue processes on a range of energy-related questions, including the 2050 decarbonisation targets (Sciencewise n.d.) and shale gas extraction (TNS BMRB 2014). Instead of attempting to engage a large sample of the population these approaches focus on achieving a depth of dialogue and deliberation, enabling a small number of participants to learn from experts and from each other during the process and thus potentially to shift their attitudes and contribute new ideas on the topic under discussion. Thus they envision a public able to engage in complex reasoned argument, in contrast to public opinion surveys."

The research will follow on from this initial scoping note with a systematic review of participation and public engagement in UK energy system transitions (including of energy governance and decision making). The research team will then undertake new research in the form of one or more participatory experiments.