UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Physics and Energy Social Research (PhaESR)

PhaESR is a 5-month project examining the scope for integrating social research and physics for the benefit of understanding energy use better

Energy use is a classic example of a 'socio-technical system' - where physical components and social components interact to generate outcomes of interest to the humans in the system. Energy research typically uses physical devices to transform measurements of the environment (e.g. temperature) into digital data. This data is then used to understand broader concepts related to the social sciences such as comfort.

Yet there is clearly a large empirical and epistemic gap between concepts such as temperature and comfort: what do concepts like comfort mean for physical measurements? Do devices that measure temperature actually help or hinder the generation of valid data for understanding how physical environments support comfort? Are they measuring temperature in the most suitable way when the data is being used to describe social as opposed to physical processes? More generally how would we go about understanding how fit for purpose such devices are in these socio-technical settings?

The main starting point for this research which PhaESR wishes to address, is the scoping of both a method of appraisal for digital devices in the social research practice and an exploration of how these devices might need adapting to explore socio-technical systems.

STEaPP contributors

Cooper 2016
Dr Adam Cooper
Principal Investigator

Trupti Patel
Trupti Patel
Research Assistant