UCL Energy Institute


Realist approaches in energy research paper featured in Parliament's Evidence Week

17 August 2023

Dr Mike Fell from UCL Energy Institute briefed MPs on recent Nature Energy paper ‘Realist approaches in energy research to support faster and fairer climate action’.

Dr Mike Fell speaking with Rt Hon Greg Clarke at Evidence Week

The Sense about Science Evidence week in Parliament brings together public, MPs, Peers, national experts, and researchers together to discuss how evidence informs policy and what latest research findings Parliament should use to review current policies. 

Dr Mike Fell from UCL Energy Institute joined the Springer Nature stand at the event, giving three-minute briefings to a range of MPs including Rt Hon Greg Clark, former Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and current chair of the Commons' Science and Technology Committee. Mike’s briefings discussed his research paper in Nature Energy ‘Realist approaches in energy research to support faster and fairer climate action’ co-authored with Katy Roelich and Lucie Middlemiss (University of Leeds).

The paper calls for greater use of "realist" approaches in sociotechnical energy studies for the rapid action needed in the energy sector to respond to the climate emergency. The authors place emphasis on understanding the mechanisms by which outcomes of interventions and policies come about and, crucially, how this depends on contextual factors. This can inform action based on existing learning from a wide range of sectors and disciplines—action that is tailored to be effective in specific contexts and can respond to the potential for unjust outcomes. In this way they can support justice, interdisciplinary working, and urgency in energy research. These approaches are more widely used to understand how complex interventions work in areas like health.

Mike was joined on the Springer Nature stand by Nature Energy Editor Nicky Dean and their Director of Sustainability Thea Sherer. On the experience of being involved in Evidence Week Mike said:

It was great to get an opportunity to talk with MPs about using evidence in complex policy areas like energy efficiency and fuel poverty, and also hear more about the kinds of challenges they face in their constituencies." 

Thea Sherer said:

Dr Fell’s involvement in Evidence Week, presenting work published in Nature Energy, was a brilliant opportunity to show parliamentarians how research can be applied in real life decision making to improve outcomes for constituents and citizens."