School of Sociology and Social Policy

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Alison Mohr

Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences


Expertise Summary

Alison has over 10 years' experience as an energy social scientist focusing on (bio)energy systems governance for social and environmental change. Her interests are built around two overlapping programs of research. The first is in pioneering methodological and conceptual approaches to integrated sustainability assessment of energy systems to incorporate different values, priorities and visions for alternative energy and environmental futures. The second explores the inclusive design and governance of sustainable energy systems at different scales, their potential to transform energy access and use towards more equitable and ecological alternatives, and the political-economic barriers they face.

Alison serves on the management boards of the DfID funded Low Carbon Energy for Development Network (LCEDN), the Energy Technologies Research Institute (ETRI), and the EPSRC Centre for Resilient Decarbonised Energy Systems where she is also Director of Responsible Innovation Training. She was formerly a member of the UK Global Food Security Programme Food Futures steering group and Director of the Institute for Science and Society. She regularly represents the Supergen Bioenergy Hub at policy and industry facing events on bioenergy and BECCS governance. She has advised the CCC, House of Commons and Lords Science and Technology Committees, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) on sustainable bioenergy governance.

Teaching Summary

Energy Systems & Policy (20 credits) / Energy Technology & Society (10 credits)

The aim of the module is to provide an overview of historical lessons and contemporary debates on the relationship between energy supply and use, technology development, public policies and modern societies. The module explores the social, ethical, economic and public policy aspects of the development, embedding and transformation of modern energy systems. Students will be introduced to current issues relating to the supply and demand for energy, the technologies involved (e.g., fossil fuels, nuclear, bioenergy, renewables, hydrogen) and how these might be assessed from different disciplinary perspectives (sociology, science and technology studies, economics, development studies, geography, and public policy studies). These will be framed in terms of the overarching concept of 'energy systems' and students will be encouraged to make connections between different perspectives. Topics may include: energy security and energy policy at national and global levels; electricity markets; energy and the environment; relationship between fossil fuels, geopolitics and modern lifestyles; energy technologies and risk assessment; public policies around sustainable energy transitions and climate change mitigation; public perceptions of energy technologies; social practices of energy use; and energy access, energy poverty and development.

Research Summary

My research is situated at the nexus between energy, the environment and society. Integrating perspectives from Science and Technology Studies (STS) with concepts from human geography, my research… read more

Selected Publications

  • NERLICH, BRIGITTE, HARTLEY, SARAH, RAMAN, SUJATHA and SMITH, ALEX, eds., 2018. Science and the Politics of Openness: Here be Monsters Manchester University Press.
  • JON CLOKE, ALISON MOHR and ED BROWN, 2017. Imagining Renewable Energy: Towards a Social Energy Systems Approach to Community Renewable Energy Projects in the Global South Energy Research & Social Science. 32(October),
  • PATRICIA THORNLEY and ALISON MOHR, 2017. Policy Frameworks and Supply Chain Accounting. In: CLAIR GOUGH, PATRICIA THORNLEY, SARAH MANDER, NAOMI VAUGHAN and TEMITOPE FALANO, eds., Biomass Energy and Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS): Unlocking Negative Emissions (In Press.)
  • A. MOHR, O. SHORTALL, R. HELLIWELL and S. RAMAN, 2016. How Should Land Be Used? Bioenergy and Responsible Innovation in Agricultural Systems. In: I. GORDON, G. SQUIRE and H. PRIN, eds., Food Production and Nature Conservation: Conflicts and Solutions Earthscan (Routledge). 204-222

Because STS research is grounded in real-world problems, I consider it imperative that my teaching is research-led. I draw on my own and colleagues' research to demonstrate practical cases with real-world complexities. Because of the broad range of disciplines represented in each class it is important to use case studies that reflect their interests and knowledge base. Maintaining the relevance of case studies for each cohort of students is important.

I convene the following modules:

  • Climate Change and Society (L33780)

I lecture on the following modules:

  • Innovation and Society (L34113)
  • Energy Systems and Policy (L34118)
  • Science and Society (C136SS)

Current Research

My research is situated at the nexus between energy, the environment and society. Integrating perspectives from Science and Technology Studies (STS) with concepts from human geography, my research critically explores global inequalities arising from energy innovation and governance in response to global environmental challenges. My work seeks to better understand the socio-economic, cultural and political tensions between local-global and North-South perspectives and contexts on low carbon transitions to inform the development of energy and governance systems of appropriate scales.

I have a longstanding interest in developing methodological and conceptual approaches to energy and environmental governance based on principles of participatory governance. Ongoing research is exploring how attempts to open up transitions research for development through processes of co-design can facilitate values of inclusiveness and social, environmental and ecological justice by reflecting on experiences of implementing community energy projects in the global South by researchers based in the global North.

Research supervision:

Current PhD students:

  • Nathan Dixon: Prospective life cycle assessment for the responsible research and innovation of synthetic biology (BBSRC/EPSRC/SBRC/SSP/Faculty of Engineering)
  • Judit Varga: Explorations into the Journey of Gesocial Data (Horizon DTC)
  • Lola Vázquez Peraita: Sustainability of Biomass Supply Chains for Power Generation (ETI/Alstom/Faculty of Engineering)
  • Lucy Maddox: A Climate of Change, or Conserving the Status Quo? An Investigation of Energy Policies and Design Issues in UK National Parks.
  • Karolina Trdlicova: A comparative case study of bioenergy and fracking discourses.
  • Oisin Wilson: Can heat stored within existing mine infrastructure be used to deliver flexibility to an energy system which is becoming more complex as it transitions towards a low carbon future?

Completed PhDs:

  • Richard Helliwell: Imagining Biofuels - Building Agricultural Supply Chains in the UK: A comparison of UK policy expectations with on-farm perspectives (ESRC DTC studentship)
  • Eveline Compaore: The Role of the National Innovation Systems Framework in Facilitating Socio-Economic Development in Burkina Faso: Model and Policy Practice
  • Beverley Gibbs: Scoping Scientific Citizenship in a low-carbon Scotland' (ESRC/Scottish government collaborative studentship)
  • Szczepan Lemańczyk: Perspectives on nanotechnology from Swedish, Polish and Iranian press coverage (ISS scholarship)

Past Research

Making Energy Public/s (2013-2016)

This project investigated the role of intermediaries (people, processes and technologies) in making the transition to alternative energy systems more public, drawing on case studies of community energy access for socio-economic development in Kenya and Bangladesh. The project focused on the role of transitions research and researchers based in the global North in facilitating a just transition to low carbon futures for energy impovershied communities in the global South. One of nine projects in the Leverhulme Trust funded 'Making Science Public' research programme, the project is a collaboration with the Solar Nano-Grids (SONG): an appropriate solution for meeting community energy needs? project led by the University of Loughborough and in partnership with the United International University (Bangladesh) and not-for-profit INTASAVE-CARIBSAVE (Kenya).

Social and Ethical Dimensions of Bioenergy (2009-2013) within the Lignocellulosic Conversion to Bioethanol (LACE) project (2009 - 2013)

LACE was one of six scientific projects in the BBSRC-funded Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC) which focused on second-generation approaches to biofuels. The social and ethical dimensions work drew on STS-influenced methods of sustainability assessment and responsible innovation to assess the local-global sustainability impacts of a UK domestic vision for biofuels.

Policy Thought Leadership

My policy-focused work on public engagement has led to the design and implementation of innovative approaches to public participation in research and policy making in the UK and EU. I was commissioned by Sciencewise/BIS to develop policy thought leadership on who or what constitutes the public, the value of opening dialogue to a diverse range of publics, and on the capacity for energy research to be responsive and experimental. This and my BBSRC-funded research on food/fuel land-use conflicts led to me being asked to join the UK Global Food Security (GFS) programme's Food Futures steering group.

School of Sociology and Social Policy

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