What type of research is needed for helping societies respond to climate change?

A new collaborative paper has just been published involving a large group of researchers on societal transformations and climate change from across the globe, exploring the question of what type of research is needed for helping societies respond to climate change.


The paper outlines what is needed to achieve more action-oriented research that will be more effective in accelerating learning about how to achieve transformations to sustainability. It has been published in the journal of Energy Research and Social Science.

This is important because researchers increasingly ask themselves: “how can my work be most effective in helping to urgently address climate change?”. At the same time, policymakers and practitioners work with knowledge in many diverse ways that often differ to that of researchers, but also ask themselves  the same question about the overall impact of their work. In other words, if we’re all in the same boat, what does it mean to do research effectively in the context of climate crisis? This paper reflects the combined thoughts of a large group of authors on this question.

The paper is open access (!) and freely available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629617304413. The title and abstract are below:


Ten essentials for action-oriented and second order energy transitions, transformations and climate change research’


The most critical question for climate research is no longer about the problem, but about how to facilitate the transformative changes necessary to avoid catastrophic climate-induced change. Addressing this question, however, will require massive upscaling of research that can rapidly enhance learning about transformations. Ten essentials for guiding action-oriented transformation and energy research are therefore presented, framed in relation to second-order science. They include: (1) Focus on transformations to low-carbon, resilient living; (2) Focus on solution processes; (3) Focus on ‘how to’ practical knowledge; (4) Approach research as occurring from within the system being intervened; (5) Work with normative aspects; (6) Seek to transcend current thinking; (7) Take a multi-faceted approach to understand and shape change; (8) Acknowledge the value of alternative roles of researchers; (9) Encourage second-order experimentation; and (10) Be reflexive. Joint application of the essentials would create highly adaptive, reflexive, collaborative and impact-oriented research able to enhance capacity to respond to the climate challenge. At present, however, the practice of such approaches is limited and constrained by dominance of other approaches. For wider transformations to low carbon living and energy systems to occur, transformations will therefore also be needed in the way in which knowledge is produced and used.


Fazey, I., Schäpke, N., Caniglia, G., Patterson, J., Hultman, J., van Mierlo, B., et al. (2018) Second order transformation research for a changing climate. Energy Research and Social Science. 40: 54-70.

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