219. Professor Gordon MacKerron, SPRU, identified
three challenges as key to social science research in the renewable
The first, 'bottom up' challenge is better understanding
of consumer and citizen behaviours in the face of potentially
radical technological change.
The second challenge, both 'top down' and 'bottom
] is then to develop better understanding of the ways
in which Government may act with greater urgency in the promotion
of renewable and other sustainable energy developments, while
acquiring and retaining sufficient political legitimacy for the
urgency to be translated into long-term and effective action.
The third challenge is to achieve better analysis
and evaluation of Government policy impacts, both before and after
220. Research conducted on government renewables
policy ranges from analysing the effectiveness of the Renewables
Obligation, and alternative mechanisms, to the deployment of microgeneration
technologies. Professor MacKerron pointed out that the social
science community makes efforts to engage with many of the institutions
that undertake policy research and development, such as the Sustainable
Development Commission, as well as "the traditional activity"
of conducting research projects.
221. Social science researchers are contributing
to examining the interaction between public perception and the
planning regime in at least two ways. First, political scientists
and sociologists are analysing how the planning process, now being
revised, could achieve both legitimacy and speed. Second, through
programmes of research such Beyond Nimbyism, funded by
ESRC, researchers are examining public views and how they might
impact on the way in which the deployment of renewable technologies
222. We recognise the importance of the social
sciences in supporting the deployment of renewable electricity-generation
technologies. We welcome ESRC's continued involvement in the Research
Council Energy Programme.
223. A key strand of social science research is developing
real and practical policy questions. This research is often designed
to have impact either in the short term or to influence the climate
of opinion. When asked whether, when examining a particular policy
issue, social scientists develop potential policy solutions, Professor
The answer is: yes, on the whole. One feels slight
diffidence about allowing experts to be too much in control of
policy. One can make a contribution; there are others, such as
yourselves, who have contributions to make as well. Yes, if I
was not clear, I am sure it is the case that all that research
is designed to think about practical policy solutions as well
as simply to raise the questions.
224. Social scientists make a valuable contribution
to developing and reviewing government renewables policy. We would
advocate that social scientists undertaking policy-related research
consistently develop practical policy solutions, and that the
Government draw upon their expertise whenever it is engaged in
the development of renewables policy of social or economic importance.