School of Sociology and Social Policy

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Alison Mohr

Associate Professor, Faculty of Engineering


Expertise Summary

I am an interdisciplinary social scientist working at the intersection of energy, environment and society. I have 17 years' experience working in academia on societal challenges and the role of energy and environmental technologies and social innovations as enablers of socio-economic and environmental change in different cultural and political-economic contexts; mostly as social science lead on large-scale transdisciplinary and transectoral research collaborations. My research interests focus on developing integrated sustainability assessments of low carbon energy systems, incorporating different stakeholder (academic, policy, public, industry etc) assessments of the socio-economic, environmental, ethical, cultural and policy dimensions of implementation pathways.

My work is industry and policy facing, developing practical recommendations, socio-technical innovations and governance tools for the sustainable production, implementation and use of low carbon energy services and products across different scales and geographic contexts. It aims to transform energy access through examining how productive uses, business models, natural resource management, local/regional governance arrangements, end-user and stakeholder interactions, and local capacity building can support delivery of a broad spectrum of SDG's.

Teaching Summary

In my interdisciplinary teaching I use a range of case studies that reflect the interests and knowledge base of students to enable students to develop a reflexive understanding of the social,… read more

Research Summary

Principal or Co-Investigator on 25 competitive research grants, consultancies and studentships worth a total of £12.4M from the following funding bodies: BBSRC, British Council, ESRC, EPSRC, European… read more

Selected Publications

External Leadership

  • UK Low Carbon Energy for Development Network management board (chaired by Prof John Loughhead, BEIS Chief Scientific Adviser) (2017-date)
  • UK Global Food Security Programme Food Futures steering group (2014-2017)
  • Led the University of Nottingham's application to become a partner of the Supergen Bioenergy Hub (2017) and regularly represent the Hub at policy and industry facing events on bioenergy and BECCS governance
  • Supergen Bioenergy Hub International Conference Scientific Committee (2017)

Expert Grant Panellist

  • 2019 UKRI £31.5M Strategic Priority Fund Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) Demonstrators call
  • 2017 Belmont Forum/NORFACE €13M Transformations to Sustainability Global Environmental Change programme
  • 2016 Genome Canada's $26M Large Project Competition in Natural Resources and Environment

Policy Adviser

  • Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology 2020 POSTNote on BECCS
  • BEIS: accelerating clean energy innovation (2018) and innovations in sustainable bioenergy feedstocks (2019)
  • Committee on Climate Change (CCC) 2018 Biomass in a Low-Carbon Economy report
  • Science and Technology Committees of the House of Commons and Lords on sustainable bioenergy governance (2017)
  • Sciencewise/BIS policy thought leadership on public dialogue on science and technology (2013) - featured in RAEng Ingenia magazine highlighting the importance for the engineering profession to become more active in engaging with public concerns on complex national energy infrastructure projects

Internal Leadership

  • EPSRC CDT for Resilient Decarbonised Energy Systems (and Director of RRI Training) management board and Co-I (2019-date)
  • EPSRC CDT for CCS and Cleaner Fossil Energy management board (2017-date)
  • UoN lead, Supergen Bioenergy Hub (2016-date)
  • Chair, Research Ethics Committee, School of Sociology and Social Policy (2016-date)
  • Co-Director of the Institute for Science and Society (ISS) (2015-2018)
  • Energy Technologies Research Institute (ETRI) management board, energy policy and governance champion and research lead for the Energy Research Priority Area (2014-2017)
  • Elected representative on the University of Nottingham Senate (2013-2017)

In my interdisciplinary teaching I use a range of case studies that reflect the interests and knowledge base of students to enable students to develop a reflexive understanding of the social, economic, environmental and political context of energy innovation and energy use. I use interactive seminars and a mixture of group and individual work to create a safe and encouraging environment where students can hone the abilities they already have and create new knowledge (e.g., introduced blended learning methods such as the 'flipped classroom'). The use of this approach has been singled out as a highlight in student evaluation surveys.

Energy Systems & Policy (PG, 20 credits) / Energy Technology & Society (PG, 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.

Current Research

Principal or Co-Investigator on 25 competitive research grants, consultancies and studentships worth a total of £12.4M from the following funding bodies: BBSRC, British Council, ESRC, EPSRC, European Commission, GCRF, Leverhulme Trust, MRC, Scottish Government, UK Government, Wellcome Trust.

Co-I, AHRC/GCRF, Inherited Soil Surveys: Transdisciplinary Appraisal in Zambia (InSTAnZa) (2019-2021)

If agriculture is to develop sustainably in a changing climate then decisions on policy and land management must be based on sound information about the soil, its composition, properties and status. Because the soil is variable this information is hard to obtain. Many countries in the Global South, with challenging problems in agricultural development, have a legacy of soil surveys from the colonial and post-colonial periods. Zambia has an inheritance of soil surveys dating back to the 1930s when Colin Trapnell and colleagues undertook a series of traverses across the country, examining vegetation, farming practices and the soil. This culminated in a national Vegetation and Soil Map published in 1947. The InSTAnZa project will investigate whether this information could be used to address contemporary problems, for example, by identifying the soils where conservation agriculture interventions might have the biggest impact.

The InSTAnZa project sets out to address this challenge from different perspectives. A pedological dimension will study of legacy surveys regarding the ongoing validity of soil data, the contemporary relevance of the soil classifications used and how new data and old maps might be integrated - could this legacy information be deployed to help us address contemporary problems? A historical dimension - what priorities and policies framed the survey, and its terms of reference? Whose voices dominated the framing of these questions, and who was not heard? Legacy soil surveys must also be read in their social context alongside other factors that influence decisions on land use, the social development of science and technology, and the overall social context in which science influences policy.

Past Research

Co-I, GCRF, Implementation of Bio-Rural Energy Scheme (IBRES) in Ghana (2018-2019)

The IBRES project is funded under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and aims to develop a decentralised bioenergy electricity generation system for rural communities using cocoa pod husks (CPH) as a fuel in a gasification system. The project integrates technical and socio-economic components to create small scale bio-power electricity generation systems, develop guidelines for demonstrating full scale bioenergy schemes and their integration into rural communities, investigate stakeholders' perceptions of the bioenergy schemes and develop community cooperatives and governance structures appropriate to the local communities in cocoa producing regions.

Co-I and Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow, 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 was a collaboration with the EPSRC/DfID/DECC 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 SCODE (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 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.

School of Sociology and Social Policy

Law and Social Sciences building
University of Nottingham
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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