SupervisorsDr Rosie Robison and Dr Mel Rohse, Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK

Advisors: Dr Corinna Abesser and Mrs Hazel Napier, British Geological Survey, UK

Start date: September 2019, fully funded (annual stipend + fee waiver + additional study expenses) for 3 years

Deadline: 3 March 2019

This PhD will explore how, and how effectively, different user engagement theories are being applied in local and integrated renewable energy projects. It will use a range of case studies to investigate how user engagement is implemented by energy scientists in the context of a low-carbon energy transition, and make recommendations for future projects, particularly in terms of bringing social user engagement understandings to technical project leads.

The design and delivery of new energy systems for a low-carbon economy depend on end-user engagement with new technologies. Whilst a growing body of energy social science explores technology use and acceptance, little work has been done on how energy project leads may actively utilise this research to inform and qualitatively engage with end users, and how effective their efforts are. Practical applications also remain dominated by theories of behaviour change narrowly emphasising individuals’ behaviours.

This innovative PhD will focus on questions surrounding, for example (but not limited to)

  1. What user engagement theories are mobilised by technical project leads.
  2. How they are then used in specific socio-economic contexts, including social aspects of engagement and communication with end users.
  3. How effective they are.

This is a collaboration with the British Geological Survey (BGS), the UK’s main authority on geoscience. BGS will support access to relevant energy projects, including a wide energy-focused stakeholder base. Additional study expenses will be provided by BGS. Findings will also feed into the ‘User engagement, preferences and behaviours’ work package of the EPSRC EnergyREV consortium, funded under the Industrial Strategy ‘Prospering from the energy revolution’ theme.

The successful candidate will likely have experience of qualitative research methods and hold a relevant social science Masters, or have equivalent experience.

Further details:

–          This PhD opportunity is part of ARU’s wider Vice Chancellor PhD studentship programme. More details can be found here (under the ‘Environment and Sustainability’ theme) including on the application process.

–          Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Dr Rosie Robison ( to discuss the PhD opportunity further.

–          The annual stipend will track UKRI levels across the three years, which was set at £14,777/year for 2018-2019 and is to be confirmed for 2019-2020.

–          These full-time Vice Chancellor’s PhD Studentships are open to all UK/EU fee status applicants.