Communicating Material Cultures of Energy: Five Challenges for Energy Communication

Lead Research Organisation: Science Museum Group
Department Name: Science Museum Research

Abstract

Human energy consumption and its direct link to global climate change is among the most defining and challenging issues of our time. The original Material Cultures of Energy project (MCE, conducted in 2014-2017) examined how copiously consumed energy transformed daily life during the 20th century. The MCE project successfully revealed that consumers have shaped the diverse patterns of energy consumption in accordance with distinctively local, regional and national energy cultures. This follow-on project will build on the successes of MCE and its intervention into today's energy issues by directly engaging with the process of communicating energy-related knowledge and information. This approach presents a unique opportunity for arts and humanities research to directly influence professional practices that have important bearings on energy users' behaviour, knowledge and attitude.

This project will explore methods for improving communication about energy-related information and knowledge to the public. The project will mobilise the MCE project's legacy assets and engage with a new community of stakeholders: 'energy communicators' such as museum curators; public relations and communication officers in business, government offices, NGOs, community energy groups. By collaborating with the key mediators of energy-related information, the project seeks to deliver the original project's research findings-in the broader context of today's energy communication-to stakeholders and the public effectively and immediately. Simultaneously, the project aims to benefit communication experts by creating new collaborative partnerships and a network of research institutions, the cultural industry and the energy sector.

Using public museums of the Science Museum Group as the main site of dialogue and public events, the project will conduct five interrelated activities to address the Five Challenges for Energy Communication:

Challenge 1. Object-based communication
Challenge 2. Behavioural intervention
Challenge 3. Visual media communication
Challenge 4. Participatory communication
Challenge 5. Community engagement

These challenges form the bases of the project's five activities that are designed to foster a multidisciplinary dialogue, co-creation process and cross-fertilisation of expertise in the field of energy communication. The five activities and their main objectives are as follows:

- Five Challenges Knowledge Exchange Sessions will create a sustained dialogue within the core project group, a multidisciplinary group of energy communicators working in research and practice.
- The project's public events at regional science festivals will combine the insights from both the MCE project and the follow-on KE sessions in a tangible form.
- An Energy Communication Conference will be organised to expand the project's scope, incorporating a wider community of communication experts within and outside of the UK.
- The Energy Communication Network will perpetuate a close working relationship among energy communicators by establishing an online-based professional network and hub of information. The network will operate via the project website and is expected to continue beyond the life of the project.
- The Energy Communication Toolkit will make available the collective knowledge and insights of energy communicators in an open-access format, intended as a reference and as learning material for communication experts and students.

Our project partners represent diverse areas of energy communication, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Behavioural Insights Team, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), the Community Energy England and the Carbon Co-op. By working closely with these partners, the follow-on project is expected to activate a dialogue across different fields of energy communication in a concerted effort to tackle major challenges for energy communication.

Planned Impact

The follow-on project establishes structured impact pathways. The immediate impact will be on the policy and practice of our partners (museum curators and communication officers of energy-related organisations). Through the KE sessions and co-creation of public events, the project's activities will feed historical and contemporary insights and experience into today's practice of energy communication in the museum and energy sectors. The Energy Communication Network, including the expert workshop participants, will bring the project's impact to a wider community of energy communication experts. The Energy Communication Toolkit will serve as a tangible legacy asset of the project and, as a learning and reference material available for free download, will benefit communication experts, researchers and students. The project's public events will directly engage with the visitors to science festivals, providing a learning opportunity for its target audiences (18+ years old).
Museum curators and media archivists: This project will serve as a training and educational programme for curators and archivists in the partner museums and cultural institutions. The participation of museum professionals at the KE sessions will inform their work on forming future communication and design policies in the partner museums. An immediate impact will be created by the project's collaboration with the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry (MSI). The project will work closely with the lead curator of the 'Electricity: The Spark of Life' exhibition, and the project's first public event will be offered to the public as a part of the exhibition. Also, the Energy Communication Toolkit will inform the MSI's energy-related exhibitions in the future. Furthermore, the project's discussion on visual media communication will contribute to the British Film Institute's (BFI) future digitisation and engagement policy. More specifically, BFI has agreed to explore the possibilities for permanently archiving modern energy communication films for research and public view.
Energy NGOs and community energy groups: The KE sessions will bring communication officers of these organisations into direct contact with cultural institutions, providing opportunities to develop and test innovative methods of communication and engagement, especially through cultural channels. The delegates from the partner organisations, such as the Community Energy England and the Energy Co-op will be given a chance to critically review their communication policies and practices with a wider community of experts at the project conference. The insights gained from the activities will be transferred through the partner organisations' executive meetings, their communication with members and their normal course of business such as consultations with local energy groups.
Energy providers: Across the UK and elsewhere, several visitor centres are operated by energy providers. The museum or exhibition format is commonly employed to communicate information at those sites. EDF Energy, a partner, runs a number of visitor centres creating a positive relationship with local communities. By having communication officers of EDF Energy in the research group, the project will assist with refining the engagement strategy for the public front of energy providers.
Government organisations: Behavioural change is one of the key concerns of governmental organisations, such as the BEIS, Ofgem and the Behavioural Insights Team. The follow-on project aims to deliver insights and knowledge, especially about cultural communication and its effect on behavioural change, to these important public players in the energy sector. By working closely with these organisations, the project will inform both the future policy and the design of energy-related communication in these bodies. BEIS recognises the potential benefit of the Energy Communication Toolkit as a guideline for its future communication work.

Publications

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Description The project aimed to make an intervention into the communicative process of energy-related information from an arts and humanities perspective. Its main objective of the project was to address the Five Challenges for energy communication through the project's inter-related activities.

The major achievements of the project are:
1. The project effectively identified and reach out to new stakeholders in energy-related sectors, including some cultural institutions (e.g. museums) that are involved in public communication of energy.

2. The project set up an expert forum for discussing energy communication. The objective of creating a dialogue among energy communication experts has been achieved through knowledge exchange sessions. For instance, the first knowledge exchange session's discussion on 'object based communication' led to the meeting participants' shared understanding that such a method is, explicitly or implicitly, employed not only in museums (where object-based communication is a popular concept) but also in other energy-related communication exercises.

3. As the project progressed, the project has accumulated a number of case studies that are relevant resources for future use by communication experts and students. This resource will be incorporated into the Energy Communication Toolkit.

4. The project conducted some unique communication trials. The 'Energy Quiz' session at the Manchester Science Festival combined unconventional materials (films and music) to discuss energy consumption practice. This session confirmed that some sorts of 'unconventional' communication methods could productively employed in energy communication, making it more engaging for the audience.

As the project is only five months into the project period, this entry will be significantly updated in the next report with entries on:
- The four remaining knowledge exchange sessions;
- The project conference;
- The energy communication network
- The energy communication toolkit

At the moment, we are also pleased to report that the number of project collaborators has been increasing since the project's launch. For instance, the National Museum of Scotland and Electricity North-West have been added as institutional collaborators, while Dr Sarah Darby(University of Oxford), Dr Liz Haines(University of Bristol), Dr Paul Coleman (National Science & Media museum) , Dr Greg Lynall (University of Liverpool), Dr Enrico Costanza (UCL), Dr Julie Goodhew (eViz project), Ms Vicki Lesley (Tenner Films) have already taken part, or confirmed to take part, in the project's knowledge exchange sessions.
Exploitation Route Our project outcomes will be incorporated into the Energy Communication Toolkit, which will be produced toward the end of the project. By making it available online (and some physical copies will be sent to partners/collaborators and interested parties), our findings will inform future communication practices of energy-related sectors. The project's findings are also relevant to some cultural institutions, most notably museums. The project's collaborators include several museum curators, who are likely to involve future plans for energy-related exhibitions. Their participation in the project will directly and indirectly affect their future activity in designing and implementing museum exhibitions.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Energy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description As this is an on-going project, only into the fourth months of the project, there is yet to be major impact. - The project used the findings of the original project (Material Cultures of Energy) in a public event 'Energy Quiz' at the Manchester Science Festival in October 2018. Shin, Wright (a collaborator, an original member of MCE) and Jan Hicks (Museum of Science and Industry) gave short talks, using visual and audio materials related to energy communication. Each of the talks was accompanied by some quiz questions for the public audience. Thus the findings of the MCE project was directly utilised to interact with the public audience. - In the first knowledge exchange session in December 2018, Shin presented a talk on energy communication in which some research findings from the MCE project were featured. For example, Shin's talk referred to a historical energy exhibition 'Battle for Fuel' in 1942 in order to illustrate the fact that energy-related information has been communicated through museums by using the format of museum exhibition in this public information campaign organised by the Ministry of Information. The talk was addressed to the participants of the knowledge exchange session, including those from energy providers (EDF Energy, Electricity North West), government office (BEIS), community energy groups (Community Energy England, Carbon Co-op) and some museum curators. Heather Chappells (another original MCE member) gave a talk on 'technical script' related to energy consumption, a theoretical insights gained from the MCE project. As such, MCE project's research outcomes were employed as case studies and discussion topics in meetings with communication experts. This section will be significantly updated in the next reporting period.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Energy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description BIT 
Organisation Behavioural Insights Ltd
PI Contribution The project provided opportunity for the BIT officers to present and discuss their activities related to energy communication.
Collaborator Contribution BIT provided insights into the process of behavioural change and how communication could affect energy users' behaviour.
Impact yet to have outcomes.
Start Year 2018
 
Description British Film Institute 
Organisation British Film Institute (BFI)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution The project offers opportunity for BFI to connect with communication experts in energy-related sectors. As BFI holds the national collection of films related to energy industry such as the coal and electricity industry, the project provides an opportunity for BFI to review its collection policy with a view to how to fully exploit its archive collection for the benefit of the general public.
Collaborator Contribution A representative from BFI will take part in the project's activities including the knowledge exchange sessions and the project conference. BFI will also assist the project's research and use of archival films held by BFI.
Impact yet to have outputs.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Carbon Co-op 
Organisation Carbon Co-op
PI Contribution The project enabled the partner to attend knowledge exchange sessions and other relevant events as training, development and networking opportunities.
Collaborator Contribution The partner offered pro bono staff time for attending knowledge exchange sessions and other events and share its experience in public communication campaigns concerning energy. The partner contributed to the first knowledge exchange by giving a talk on the Carbon Co-op's various engagement and communication work.
Impact No outcomes yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Community Energy England 
Organisation Community Energy England
PI Contribution The project enabled the partner to attend knowledge exchange sessions and other relevant events as training, development and networking opportunities.
Collaborator Contribution The partner offered pro bono staff time for attending knowledge exchange sessions and other events and share its experience in public communication campaigns concerning energy. A delegate from the organisation will present insights from the organisation's work in the field of community energy at the third and fifth knowledge exchange sessions.
Impact No outcomes yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 
Organisation Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The project provided opportunity for BEIS officer to interact with energy communication experts in the energy industry, museums and academic organisations.
Collaborator Contribution BEIS provided time for its officers to attend the project's activities. A delegate attended the first knowledge exchange session on 'object-based communication' and took part in the discussion.
Impact An officer from BEIS attended the first knowledge exchange session.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Dr Cozen 
Organisation California State University, Fresno
PI Contribution The project will discuss some of the ideas Dr Cozen and his colleagues put forward in published articles on energy communication. Dr Cozen and one of his colleagues will be invited to the project conference as keynote speakers.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Cozen and his colleagues will offer specialist insights into the field of energy communication through correspondence and by attending the project conference. They will also provide intellectual assistance for the production of the Energy Communication Toolkit.
Impact Not output yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description EDF Energy 
Organisation EDF Energy
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The project enabled the partner to attend knowledge exchange sessions and other relevant events as training, development and networking opportunities.
Collaborator Contribution The partner offered pro bono staff time for attending knowledge exchange sessions and other events and share its experience in public communication campaigns concerning energy. The partner contributed to the first knowledge exchange by giving a talk on education outreach in EDF Energy.
Impact No outcomes yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Electricity North West 
Organisation Electricity North West
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The project enabled the partner to attend knowledge exchange sessions and other relevant events as training, development and networking opportunities.
Collaborator Contribution The partner offered pro bono staff time for attending knowledge exchange sessions and other events and share its experience in public communication campaigns concerning energy. The partner contributed to the first knowledge exchange by giving a talk about the company's experience of working with the Science and Industry Museum (Manchester) for Electricity: The Spark of Life exhibition from an energy provider's perspective.
Impact No outcomes yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description KCL Dr Woodham 
Organisation King's College London
Department School of Biomedical Sciences KCL
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The project will provide opportunities for Dr Woodham to discuss and review the 'Energy in Store' project. This discussion will take place as part of the project's knowledge exchange session, especially sessions on 'participatory communication' and 'community engagement'.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Woodham will bring a unique expertise and experience gained from the 'Energy in Store' project, a public engagement project that employed energy-related museum objects in order to reach a group of stakeholders. The methodological and practical insights from the 'Energy in Store' project will be useful for our energy communication project in particular the way we employ objects to connect with a public audience.
Impact no output yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description National Museum of Scotland 
Organisation National Museums Scotland
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The project will provide opportunities for the museum's representatives to discuss and review its public communication concerning energy-related exhibits.
Collaborator Contribution The museum will send delegates to the project's knowledge exchange sessions and the project conference. At the second knowledge exchange session, the museum's curator for technology gave a talk on a film created in relation to collecting the flare tip from Murchison oil platform in 2017.
Impact no output yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Ofgem 
Organisation Ofgem Office of Gas and Electricity Markets
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The project provides opportunities for the Ofgem reps to take part in the dialogue with communication experts in other energy-related sectors.
Collaborator Contribution Ofgem will send representatives to the project's knowledge exchange sessions, sharing information and insights regarding public communication of energy. In addition, Ofgem will provide assistance for the production of the Energy Communication Toolkit by way of supplying relevant information and advice.
Impact Yet to have outputs.
Start Year 2018
 
Description University of Salford 
Organisation University of Salford
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The project enabled the partner to attend knowledge exchange sessions and other relevant events as training, development and networking opportunities.
Collaborator Contribution The partner offered pro bono staff time for attending knowledge exchange sessions and other events and share its experience in public communication campaigns concerning energy. The partner contributed to the first knowledge exchange by giving a talk on Smart Meters>Smart Home laboratory.
Impact No outcomes yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description AHTV event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The project PI participated an event organised by the AHRC in which the PI had opportunities to discuss the project with film producers who were working for BBC and National Geographic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Discussion with the National Museum of Scotland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In December 2018, the PI (Shin) visited the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh to discuss the project with three curators and public engagement officers of the same museum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description First Knowledge Exchange Session 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact On 18 December, the project held its first knowledge exchange session in the Dana Research Centre, Science Museum, on the theme of 'object-based communication' (the project's Challenge One).
The meeting was introduced by Dr Shin, the project PI, followed by short talks by Mr Russell and Prof Trentmann - the two Co-Investigators. The first part of the session was entitled 'Object-based communication in action' in which Jan Hicks (Science and Industry Museum), Jonny Morgan (Electricity North West), Bob Fenton (EDF Energy), Will Swan (University of Salford) presented their experience and insight into communication work employing physical objects.

The second part 'Objects, Practices and new Technologies' addressed the question of new technology and changing consumer practice. Heather Chappells (University of British Columbia), Jonathan Atkinson (Carbon Co-Op) and Sarah Darby (University of Oxford) gave talks on the topic.

This meeting also served as a kick-off meeting for the entire project and most of the key stakeholders had opportunity to introduce themselves, including their current and recent work concerning energy-related public communication.

The meeting was attended by Hiroki Shin (Science Museum), Ben Russell (Science Museum), Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck), Heather Chappells (University of British Columbia),Rebecca Wright (University of Northumbria), Vanessa Taylor (University of Greenwich),Poppy Walter (BEIS), Liz Haines (University of Bristol), Jon Hall (Community Energy England), Helen Peavitt (Science Museum), Jonathan Atkinson (Carbon Co-Op) and Sarah Darby (University of Oxford), Jan Hicks (Science and Industry Museum), Jonny Morgan (Electricity North West), Bob Fenton (EDF Energy), Will Swan (University of Salford)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Manchester Science Festival 'Power: Late' event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the Manchester Science Festival, the project organised an event 'Energy Quiz' that consisted of short presentations and participatory quiz sessions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.manchestersciencefestival.com/event/power-late/
 
Description Meeting at BFI Feb 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In February 2019, the project PI had a meeting with a collaborator at the British Film Institute. In the meeting, the project's future directions, as well as the collaborator's further involvement in the project were discussed. The delegate expressed his willingness to make further contribution to the current project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Participation in Engaging Parliaments with Academic Research workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The project PI was invited to participate the Engaging Parliaments with Academic Research workshop in March 2019. The workshop offered an opportunity to discuss the project with those working in the UK parliament, the PI also had conservation about the project with other workshop participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact New project pages have been added to the existing project website for the Material Cultures of Energy.

The website will be extended continuously as the project proceeds.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description SMG Research Seminar Oct 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On invitation, Shin gave a short presentation on the project. The seminar was attended by approx. 20 people from across the Science Museum Group. The talk publicised the project within the group and associated researchers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Saijo High School study event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In December 2018, the project hosted a study event for Saijo High School, Ehime, Japan at the Science Museum's Dana Research Centre. The event featured students' presentations, lectures by Dr Hiroki Shin (PI) on 'Disruption, Adaptation and Resilience' and Dr Aya Shin (EDF Energy) on nuclear safety. About 30 students were present, in addition to three teachers from the high school.

Saijo High School has requested a similar event in future, to be held in January 2020.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://saijo-h.esnet.ed.jp/cms/modules/wordpress7/index.php?p=655
 
Description Skype meeting with Prof Wim Elving 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PI had a Skype meeting with Prof Wim Elving of Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, the Netherlands.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description project webpage, Science Museum Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact As part of the Science Museum Group research website, a dedicated project page has been launched. The page will be linked to the SMG Research & Public History Department website. Regular updates on the project will be featured over the lifetime of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://group.sciencemuseum.org.uk/projects/communicating-material-cultures-of-energy-five-challenge...