Becoming allies: Combining social science and technological perspectives to improve energy research and policy making

Publication Type

Conference Paper

Date Published




Within the energy research community, social sciences tends to be viewed fairly narrowly, often as simply a marketing tool to change the behavior of consumers and decision makers, and to "attack market barriers." As we see it, social sciences, which draws on sociology, psychology, political science, business administration, and other academic disciplines, is capable of far more. A social science perspective can re- align questions in ways that can lead to the development of technologies and technology policy that are much stronger and potentially more successful than they would be otherwise. In most energy policies governing commercial buildings, the prevailing R&D directives are firmly rooted in a technology framework, one that is generally more quantitative and evaluative than that fostered by the social sciences. To illustrate how social science thinking would approach the goal of achieving high energy performance in the commercial building sector, we focus on the U.S. Department of Energy's Roadmap for commercial buildings (DOE 2000) as a starting point. By "deconstructing" the four strategies provided by the Roadmap, we set the stage for proposing a closer partnership between advocates of technology-based and social science-based approaches.


Proceedings of the ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, August 18-23, 2002



Year of Publication



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