Sociotechnical agendas: Reviewing future directions for energy and climate research

Benjamin K. Sovacool*, David J. Hess, Sulfikar Amir, Frank W. Geels, Richard Hirsh, Leandro Rodriguez Medina, Clark Miller, Carla Alvial Palavicino, Roopali Phadke, Marianne Ryghaug, Johan Schot, Antti Silvast, Jennie Stephens, Andy Stirling, Bruno Turnheim, Erik van der Vleuten, Harro van Lente, Steven Yearley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

The field of science and technology studies (STS) has introduced and developed a “sociotechnical” perspective that has been taken up by many disciplines and areas of inquiry. The aims and objectives of this study are threefold: to interrogate which sociotechnical concepts or tools from STS are useful at better understanding energy-related social science, to reflect on prominent themes and topics within those approaches, and to identify current research gaps and directions for the future. To do so, the study builds on a companion project, a systematic analysis of 262 articles published from 2009 to mid-2019 that categorized and reviewed sociotechnical perspectives in energy social science. It identifies future research directions by employing the method of “co-creation” based on the reflections of sixteen prominent researchers in the field in late 2019 and early 2020. Drawing from this co-created synthesis, this study first identifies three main areas of sociotechnical perspectives in energy research (sociotechnical systems, policy, and expertise and publics) with 15 topics and 39 subareas. The study then identifies five main themes for the future development of sociotechnical perspectives in energy research: conditions of systematic change; embedded agency; justice, power, identity and politics; imaginaries and discourses; and public engagement and governance. It also points to the recognized need for pluralism and parallax: for research to show greater attention to demographic and geographical diversity; to stronger research designs; to greater theoretical triangulation; and to more transdisciplinary approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101617
Number of pages35
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Volume70
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Science and technology studies
  • Science technology and society
  • Sociology of scientific knowledge
  • Sociotechnical systems
  • Sustainability transitions
  • RESEARCH-AND-DEVELOPMENT
  • MULTILEVEL ANALYSIS
  • POLITICAL-ECONOMY
  • LARGE TECHNICAL SYSTEMS
  • LOW-CARBON TRANSITIONS
  • URBAN LIVING LABS
  • SOCIAL-SCIENCE
  • RENEWABLE ENERGY
  • NUCLEAR-POWER
  • REGIME DESTABILIZATION

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