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Energy Social sciences & Humanities Innovation Forum Targeting the SET-Plan

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Energy-SHIFTS (Energy Social sciences & Humanities Innovation Forum Targeting the SET-Plan)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2020-03-31

The Energy-SHIFTS Forum enhances dialogue and cooperation between energy-related Social Sciences and Humanities (energy-SSH) stakeholders, to improve policy relating to the EU Energy Union. Our inclusive and engaging Forum – working with academia, policy, citizens, industry, NGOs, and media – facilitates collaborative knowledge generation and SSH-led debate on how energy challenges can be addressed through policies that place societal needs more centrally.

Energy-SHIFTS – “Energy Social sciences & Humanities Innovation Forum Targeting the SET-Plan” – responds to the latest phase of the EC’s support for energy-SSH research at the EU policy level. As is now widely recognised, rapid technological uptake is not the only factor in moving towards low-carbon energy systems. Critical social issues must be centrally considered from the earliest stages, including: democratic inclusion, burden-sharing, participation beyond niche groups, transformative governance, social acceptability, cultures, pervasive values, ethical responsibilities, etc. We also centrally involve EU Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan[1]) stakeholders (including industry) and a wide range of energy policy-facing roles.

Specifically, Energy-SHIFTS works to:

o Inclusively broaden interactions (objective 1): by developing accessible guides to energy-SSH in EU policy and open databases of key individuals (WP1), through scoping workshops and masterclasses for key audiences (WP1/WP4), and via digital communications channels (WP5);
o Deepen interactions, based on SSH- and policy-led priorities (objectives 2 & 3): through expert SSH Working Groups with 100+ leading academics across 4 SET-Plan Topics (WP2), and via 1-1 policyworker-researcher dialogue on policy-led questions, across 120 meetings (WP3);
o Evaluate novel collaboration mechanisms (objective 4): utilising SSH methods to implement and test novel interaction streams, e.g. Horizon Scanning (WP2), Fellowships (WP3);
o Collectively set future energy agendas (objective 5): using our SSH Priority Themes and research agendas from 4 Working Groups, we will work to directly inform future H2020/FP9 priorities, as well as the future of the SET-Plan itself.

This will provide both reactive policy insights for the short-term and pro-active policy insights for the longer-term, thereby enabling evidence-based energy-SSH insights to successfully reach the ‘policy front line’. We will involve 10,788+ stakeholders in our innovative activities
Over the first reporting report, the Energy-SHIFTS consortium completed WP1 on Scoping, which; created a new energy-SSH policyworker database; organised and ran four scoping workshops with a range of relevant stakeholders on SSH priority themes (social innovation, evidence in energy policy, inclusive engagement, carbon-intensive regions); published a collection of reports on the four aforementioned themes, covering both state-of-the-art SSH thinking following a literature review, and reflections on workshop discussions; as well as accessible guides to SSH in the SET-Plan and in the energy-focused European Technology & Innovation Platforms.

Alongside the completion of WP1, our core WPs have begun which have focused around bringing together 120+ energy-SSH researchers for a Horizon Scanning exercise that will identify the top energy-SSH research questions for Horizon Europe (WP2); and a similar number of policyworkers and energy-SSH researchers who have agreed to meet/discuss mutual topics of interest, as part of the Energy-SHIFT Policy Fellowship programme (WP3).
Energy-SHIFTS clearly moves beyond the mainstream way of supporting energy policies and policymaking, through how it fundamentally put SSH front and centre. It is clear that for many years energy policy(making) has been dominated by the more technical and natural science led energy research arenas, and thereby significantly neglect the social and human elements of the energy transition.

Moreover, when SSH has been considered, it is often viewed as a homogeneous mass of identical viewpoints, and as such is treated in the singular, rather than the plural. This matters when connecting energy-SSH research to energy policy(making), and Energy-SHIFTS is doing this through how it makes the divergences and differences amongst energy-SSH communities transparent in – and indeed implicit to – the recommendations it provides.
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