A recent report of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) addressed ways to accelerate the pace of change in energy technologies through and integrated Federal energy policy. Among its recommendations, PCAST included action that social science researchers could take to improve the adoption of energy technology:
A Multidisciplinary Social Science Research Program
DOE’s energy mission is to support basic and “use-inspired” research, but in fact it devotes little time or investment to understanding how energy technologies ultimately succeed in the marketplace. DOE needs to “close the innovation cycle” through support of a significant new multidisciplinary program into the processes of energy innovation. Understanding how the department’s technologies proceed as they pass from invention to innovation to adoption to diffusion and how the innovation system as a whole is functioning is critical to understanding the overall success of DOE’s mission, as well as the performance of government in energy innovation and technology deployment.
RECOMMENDATION 4-4: DOE, along with NSF, should initiate a multidisciplinary social science research program to examine the U.S. energy technology innovation ecosystem, including its actors, functions, processes, and outcomes. This research should be fully integrated into DOE’s energy research and applied programs.
This research program should fund experts from the physical sciences, engineering, economics, sociology, public policy, political science, international relations, business, and other disciplines. Examples of questions that might be rigorously studied are:
University research in the SBE sciences, therefore, also play a strong role in national efforts to meet our goals both generally and in specific areas. Box 3-6, for example, describes how SBE research contributes to federal energy policy and the acceleration of energy innovation.