Society, economy and policy
As new energy technologies are developed it’s vital to understand the social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts they will have.
Moving technology from university laboratories through manufacturing and into wider public use is as much a social and organisational issue as it is an economic or technological one. Understanding the social and ethical contexts of decisions is also an increasingly important consideration for companies as they operate in politically and culturally sensitive locations.
The University of Nottingham’s social scientists work alongside scientists and engineers to try to better understand the broader impacts of energy technologies on society, including any unanticipated consequences. By doing this we are beginning to understand how people interact with new technological systems and how human responses will shape future technology designs.
For example, our social scientists are working with the School of Biosciences looking at the demands on land use in bioenergy production. How will bioenergy fit into current patterns of land use and how will we ensure the world doesn’t suffer food shortages because of these demands? How will members of the public respond to this new technology and the changes it may bring to familiar landscapes? How can their reactions be accommodated in the development of the technology?
We are also working on projects at the Creative Energy Homes to see how people interact with new technological systems. This will help us understand the role of technologies such as smart meters in reducing energy consumption and encouraging residents to maintain a low-carbon lifestyle.
Social science plays an important part in training future generations of engineers at Nottingham.