Our Research Landscape

Credit: Gemma Cassells

UCL’s new Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP) is putting into practice its aim to be ‘global in reach and applied in focus’ by developing a suite of research projects that cut across academic, policy and geographical divides. STEaPP’s research portfolio is centred on investigating and experimenting with the ways knowledge shapes decision-making in the wake of today’s major global challenges. STEaPP focuses on the knowledge systems and science-policy interfaces that underpin decision-making at the local, national and international scale. The Department is developing cutting-edge research that is not just interdisciplinary in nature, but also inherently impact-driven and comprehensible for policymakers.

Core to the STEaPP’s approach is the concept of ‘action research’ and the principle of ‘co-production’ with academic, policy and industry partners outside of the Department in the design and execution of STEaPP’s research initiatives. This takes STEaPP research to collaborate, experiment and engage with key international stakeholders like the World Bank, UN-Habitat, government bodies and national institutions like the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, as well as local communities and non-governmental associations. This co-productionist and action frame applies to both major externally-funded research programmes like Liveable Cities and Urban Connections as much as to smaller in-depth research pilots. Our action research agenda is geared towards a progressive problem-solving approach: STEaPP researchers see themselves as part of a wider community of practice where academia is an embedded, accountable and positive force of knowledge mobilization for societal change. STEaPP’s action research is a reflective process that acknowledges its position and responsibility within the wider world it seeks to examine, aiming to understand the world as much as trying to change it.

These principles extends across a series of key domains for STEaPP's current research: urbanisation; climate, energy and environment; humanitarianism and development; and the role of STEM in policy and policymaking.

Registration is now open for the 2014 International Symposium for Next Generation Infrastructure (ISNGI).

International Centre for Infrastructure Futures (www.icif.ac.uk) is creating a shared, facilitated learning environment in which social scientists, engineers, industrialists, policy makers and other stakeholders can research and learn together to understand how better to exploit the technical and market opportunities that emerge from the increased interdependence of infrastructure systems.
The project focuses on the development and implementation of innovative business models and aims to support UK firms wishing to exploit them in international markets. Compared to many parts of the world, the UK has under-invested in its infrastructure in recent decades. It now faces many challenges in upgrading its infrastructure so that it is appropriate for the social, economic and environmental challenges it will face in the remainder of the 21st century. A key challenge involves taking into account the ways in which infrastructure systems in one sector increasingly rely on other infrastructure systems in other sectors in order to operate.

ICIF is undertaking a wide range of research activities on infrastructure interdependencies with users, which will allow problems to be discovered and addressed earlier and at lower cost. Because infrastructure innovations alter the social distribution of risks and rewards, the public needs to be involved in decision making to ensure business models and forms of regulation are social robust. As a consequence, ICIF has a major focus on using its research to catalyse a broader national debate about the future of the UK’s infrastructure, and how it might contribute towards a more sustainable, enconomically vibrant, and fair society.

Professor Brian Collins, Director
Tom Dolan, Research Associate
Kelly Lawless, Project Coordinator

Liveable Cities (www.liveablecities.org.uk) is an ambitious, five-year programme of research to develop a method of designing and engineering low carbon, resource secure, wellbeing maximised UK cities. The UCL STEaPP team is specifically responsible for research on policy and governance for liveable cities.

Cities are a complex and dynamic interaction between people, systems and resources. The extent to which we choose to make our cities ‘liveable’ forms the basis of an ever-evolving set of policy decisions, coupled with appropriate governance systems to make sure that those policies are being adhered to and are achieving their intended aim. Yet many of the structures and accepted norms within policy-making are based on outdated understandings of the way cities work and the challenges they face. We need to fully understand not only the best use of policy in the implementation of well-engineered design solutions, but the extent to which policy itself will need to be re-engineered if it is to be fit for purpose in the context of future city liveability.

Professor Brian Collins, Co-Investigator
Andrew Chilvers, Research Associate
Ellie Cosgrave, Research Associate

Big data needs big research: a 'UK Energy Lab'?

The Centre for Energy Epidemiology (CEE) together with the UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP) and the National Centre for Social Research are working on a project supported by the UK government Department of Energy and Climate Change on the feasibility of a large-scale UK longitudinal panel of energy use in homes and businesses. In carrying out this work, CEE and partners are helping DECC fulfil one commitment from the recently published Developing DECC's Evidence Base. The study, started in January 2014, aims to advise HM Government and the Research Councils UK in the summer of 2014 on whether a large scale panel following homes and businesses year on year is a cost effective investment. The study will look at the case for such a panel – tagged the 'UK Energy Lab' - as well as the design and methods needed to execute it in the context of energy. A unique feature of the study will be the consideration of how social elements can be combined with technical elements to understand energy use in a nationally-representative study. Linked to this is the recent open call announced by the CEE on measurement – outputs from this open call may provide innovative socio-techncial research methods which could be used in a future panel.

Dr David Shipworth, UCL Energy Institute
Dr Adam Cooper, UCL STEaPP

The City Leadership Studio (www.cityleadership.net) responds to pressing concerns about the future of cities and city leadership in the 21st century. The Studio’s flagship initiative, the two-year "Urban Connections” project funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), focuses on developing a global survey of city leadership and strategic urban plans with an eye at informing practice, scholarship and education for the ‘next generation’ of city leaders. The Studio also carries out a suite of other thematic initiatives in partnership with key urban stakeholders, surveying issues like place promotion and city networking, urban safety and city diplomacy.

The Studio’s work is informed by critical questions for contemporary urbanism: What does 'city leadership' entail in an increasingly networked global scenario? What powers do mayors have, and what limits their actions? How are they influenced by city- to-city networking? How does city leadership translate into strategic responses to global challenges? How can we harness the lessons from the current globalisation of city leadership, both at the mayoral and city officer levels, to develop the next generation of city leaders?

Dr Michele Acuto, Principal Investigator
Elizabeth Rapoport, Research Associate
Charlotte Barrow, Research Assistant
Susanne Namer-Waldenstrom, Project Administrator

For further information, please contact Susanne at s.namer@ucl.ac.uk.

Page last modified on 24 jan 14 18:20