UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy

Cooper 2016

Dr Adam Cooper

Lecturer, Policy Research and Practice

+44 (0)20 3108 9411

Dr Adam Cooper (MSc., FHEA, UKES) joined UCL STEaPP in September 2013 to help build the department from the ground up. He had previously spent 11 years as a leading member of the UK civil service’s Government Social Research profession. During his time in government he served as the first Head of Social Science Engagement in the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (2011-2013, now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy). While there, he led a team responsible for drafting Developing DECC’s Evidence Base. Adam was the Head of Research at the Department of Culture and Sport between 2006 and 2011 during which time he led the first 3 years of the £1.8M ground-breaking, multidisciplinary cultural policy research programme Culture and Sport Evidence (CASE) together with four non-departmental public bodies.

Dr Cooper studied psychology (BSc. University of Stirling 1994), cognitive science (MSc. Dist, University of Edinburgh, 1995) and obtained a doctorate degree in cognitive neuropsychology (Doctor of Philosophy – PhD, University of Birmingham, 1999), but is also extensively schooled in a wide array of social research methods for policy: social survey design, interview and observational methods, deliberative and action research. He also has extensive experience in the application of economics and statistics to policy making. He has developed undergraduate, master’s and doctoral training courses on policy analysis, policy entrepreneurship and reflective practice.

Most of his current research is about exploring how policy institutions with portfolios that focus on managing physical infrastructures for social benefit can ‘know’ how best to intervene in these systems. This includes developing cutting-edge ideas around socio-technical/socio-physical research methods, policy and institutional epistemics to inform policy research and evaluation practice. His current work includes developing new applied methods of interdisciplinary research, combining physics and social research, for generating new data useful for better policy making. One example comprises exploring the use of infra-red thermal imaging and video ethnography into a method he calls ‘contextual thermography’ for understanding the role of social practices and thermal landscapes as hidden opportunities and risks to energy efficiency interventions.

Dr Cooper is an editorial board member of the journal Energy Research and Social Science and a regular consultant to UK government on social research for energy policy research and evaluation.

Dr Cooper is open to applicants looking to undertake either a STEaPP PhD (including those interested in the UBEL Pathway on Social and Policy Studies of Energy and the Environment joint with the UCL Energy Institute) or a STEaPP DPA exploring the role of public servants in the use of technical expertise for policy making.

Dr Adam Cooper


2nd Floor
36-38 Fitzroy Square


  • Lecturer
    Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL


I am principally involved in understanding how best to undertake technical research (engineering and physical sciences) in order to make it 'speak' more directly to public policy. My approach as a social scientist is to understand the end to end process: underlying epistemologies and ontologies, theoretic approaches and models of the world, research methods and designs, data analysis, interpretation and deployment into policy. There is a fundamental conflict between processes of research and modes of understanding and valuing elements of reality between physical sciences and public policy. I think that social sciences hold the key to driving more social elements into technical research and analysis and to that end I am developing a systematic approach to understanding what 'socio-technical' research is or could be.


Here is a list of selected research projects that I have been involved in since starting at UCL in September 2013:

  • Co-I - EPSRC Smart Meter Research Portal, from Sept 2017
  • PI - UCL Grand Challenges - Physics and Energy Social Research (Phaesr), from June 2017
  • Co-PI – DECC/RCUK CEE, UK Energy Lab Feasibility Study; Jan to Nov 2014
  • Contributing author - Lancet Commission – climate change and health; completed Jan 2015
  • PI – DECC Warm Home Discount Scheme policy evaluation advice; Oct-Dec 2014

Policy Research and Evaluation Consultancy

I am also a leading member of three UCL consortia that have successfully joined framework contracts at both the UK and EU government level:

  • A joint UCL STEaPP/Energy Institute/ISR/Economics group on the DECC-led evaluation advice framework
  • A UCL CEGE-led group for a DfT evaluation framework
  • A member of the UCL team for the EU DG ENER on energy efficiency

Award year Qualification Institution
1999 PhD
Doctor of Philosophy
University of Birmingham
1995 MSc
Master of Science
Cognitive Science
University of Edinburgh
1993 BSc Hons
Bachelor of Science (Honours)
University of Stirling

Dr Adam C Cooper is an applied interdisciplinary social scientist with over 10 years direct experience of the UK Civil Service. His focus is on the use of technical advice for (mainly energy) policy, and developing new field methods for socio-technical research. Adam has been a lecturer in social science and public policy at STEaPP since September 2013.  Prior to joining UCL he was the Head of Social Science Engagement at the UK government Department of Energy and Climate Change from 2011. While there he set up the first Whitehall Social Science Expert Panel, joint with Defra, and developed the department’s first Evidence Strategy.  Between 2006 and 2011 Adam was the Head of Research at the Department of Culture, Medial and Sport, where he led the Culture and Sport Evidence Programme – an interdisciplinary strategic programme of research and analysis aimed directly at informing cultural policy.  He joined the UK Civil Service in 2002 working first in the area of child poverty, before working on analysis to support the workforce development strategy for the children’s social care. He started his career as an academic at Birmingham University working in the field of cognitive neuropsychology, where he published several peer-reviewed articles. Adam holds a PhD in Cognitive Neuropsychology from Birmingham, an MSc in Cognitive Science and Natural Language from Edinburgh and a BSc in Psychology from Stirling.


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