Mind the Gap!

Blog Home    |     05.17.2016 by     |    



Bridget Clark

“A toaster only becomes a toaster when a person plugs it in and pops a piece bread in it” joked one of my community partners in expressing their frustration at the lack of consideration of human and social behavior in many existing evaluations and planning of energy systems and climate adaption strategies. My partners at the CEC realize that combating climate change and promoting resilience in the energy sector is not just a technical problem, but a social problem as well. However, given organizational, funding, and political constraints they have not had the time or resources to invest in bringing the social back into the research agenda.

The lament of practically every sociologist is that no one ever seems to listens to us- there is no President’s Council of Sociological Advisors. And yet story after story of the growing inequality in the US, new wave of gentrification and displacement, or episode of police brutality continue to grace headlines. Our research just languishes in jargon filled journal articles, rather than translated into something assessable that can be placed in the hands of decision makers and communities with the power to mobilize around these problems we spend so much time thinking and writing about.

However, through the Mellon Public Scholars program I’ve been given a small opportunity to change that. This summer, I’ve been tasked with analyzing the current trends and gaps in the social science literatures on human behavior, energy consumption, and barriers/solutions to climate change adaption. This will involve not only shifting through a vast array of published material, but also engaging with other scholars about their work and assessment of the state of knowledge around these areas. Then I will synthesize this information into research memos, highlighting opportunities for additional research, and providing reasons why filling in these gaps would help further the CEC’s goals and objectives, but also potential benefits to electricity rate payers and the environment, that my community partners can draw on to not only persuade others in the organization of the importance of this kind of social scientific research.

Source: http://www.1hq.co.uk/mind-the-gap/

Source: http://www.1hq.co.uk/mind-the-gap/

As I begin to immerse myself in these streams of research, I’m quickly realizing the vast delta of material to cover. Given the short two-month time frame to complete this project, I know I can’t cover them all. So I look forward to continuing to learn more about the CEC in order to hone in on the streams that would be most useful to engaging their concerns. My turn to public scholarship has always been motivated by the vast communication gap I see between research, practice, and those on the ground, so with my summer I’m elated to take this small step towards bridging those gaps, and helping to lay a foundation for future engagement.