In approximately 27 days I will officially start my internship with the CEC. Taking pause from writing the last seminar paper of my graduate career, grading statistics homework, and compiling comprehensive exam reading lists, I am left contemplating what questions, skills, background knowledge I will bring with me into the field on that day.
When I began the seminar just ten short weeks ago, I had only a peripheral knowledge of public scholarship- the central concerns, power dynamic issues, methodologies, necessary skills, etc. Through various readings from the course, hearing from the other seminar participants, instructors and invited speakers, blogging about these issues, and engaging with my community partner, I bring with me a growing sense of what public scholarship is and who my publics are. How my job as a public scholar is to “be a facilitator and translator as well as an expert” (Lubar). How my project is in in some sense an attempt to act on the “pseudoenvironment” of California’s energy consumption, to evaluate the “fictions” created by current scientific models which ignore the human behavior components of the system. How all I really need to record interviews is my iPhone and a copy of GarageBand.
As a social scientist I bring with me years of experience and skill conducting literature reviews in the Sociology, Economics, and Public Policy, which will enable me to answer my project’s central question: What specific gaps/ areas of research are needed to better understand the role of human behavior in energy systems, energy efficiency, and energy conservation in the context of residential natural gas and/or electricity consumption? From surviving three years of the quarter system I have experience writing on subject I’ve only just begun to grasp myself, and yet am expected to engage with critically. This will come in handy given I’ve only allotted myself 60 hours to write the final report to the CEC!
I also bring with me a growing list of articles, organizations, and experts whose brains I’d like to pick on these subjects. A supportive faculty mentor who has experience engaging with state and local agencies on topics relevant to the environment. Very enthusiastic community partners, who are not only excited about the project, but who also want to help mentor me and guide me through the foreign terrain of organizational structures and politics.
I expect to end my time in the field with a completed report the CEC that not only points out gaps in knowledge, but also persuades others in the organization of the importance of social science research to meet organizational objectives, and aligns with funding mechanisms. A better sense of what research and life outside the academy might look like. And finally a taste for what public scholarship is all about!