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What Are We Doing Here? Analyzing Fifteen Years of Energy Scholarship and Proposing a Social Science Research Agenda

Sovacool, Benjamin K.
Energy Research & Social Science

Social science related disciplines, methods, concepts, and topics remain underutilized, and perhaps underappreciated, in contemporary energy studies research. To make this case, the article offers both quantitative and qualitative data. It begins with the quantitative part, providing a content analysis of 4444 research articles involving 9549 authors and 90,079 references (from a smaller subsample) published in three leading energy journals from 1999 to 2013. Within this vast sample, only 19.6 percent of authors reported training in any social science discipline, and less than 0.3 percent of authors reported disciplinary affiliations in areas such as history, psychology, anthropology, and communication studies. Only 12.6 percent of articles utilized qualitative methods and less than 5 percent of citations were to social science and humanities journals. The article then shifts to the qualitative part, where it proposes a variety of methodological and topical areas, along with 75 research questions, that could deepen and broaden energy research, connected in part to all of the articles in this special (inaugural) issue of Energy Research & Social Science (ERSS). Readers from all disciplines are encouraged to read it—especially the parts dealing with areas and concepts outside of their own areas of expertise.