My research interests lie within social, economic and environmental psychology focusing primarily on the fields of social cognition and risk. I'm very applied in my research, particularly using this to explore current perceptions of topical risk issues. In particular, I am involved in research on climate change and energy issues, examining related public perceptions, issues of acceptance, and behaviour.
I completed my undergraduate degree at Strathclyde University and my PhD at the University of Nottingham. Subsequently, I held postdoctoral positions at the University of Nottingham and Cardiff University before returning to Nottingham as a permanent member of staff in 2010. I retain strong links with the Understanding Risk Research group at Cardiff University.
C-tech (Creating the Energy for Change) project launch
The Creating the energy for Change (C-tech) project is a 5 year EPSRC project focusing on engaging and supporting people in workplace environments to cooperate in saving energy. We joined forces with TEDDINET in developing a symposium on non-domestic energy research to bring researchers and stakeholders together in this field in order to launch our findings and discuss relevant current and future issues in this space. This event took place at the Digital Catapult in London on Monday 26th June, see event details here. Our final project report can be accessed here. The symposium brought together more than 40 researchers, industry stakeholders, ngos, and policy-makers to share their experiences of energy and sustainability in non-domestic buildings, and to reflect on the contributions of the C-tech project.
The Carbon Journey at Genting Arena
I was very pleased to be a speaker at The Carbon Journey at Genting Arena on 31st October 2016. This is an annual event primarily for students at Aston and Birmingham City University, as well as relevant industry partners to discuss how climate change will impact society, business and the professions. The feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive and the event was Highly Commended for the Green Gowns award.
First trial of e-Genie at The Digital Catapult in London
e-Genie is an energy engagement tool developed from the integration of interdiciplinary insights from Psychology, Sociology, and Computer Science research within the Ctech project. The tool provides energy information feedback (both electricity and gas) to building users, and encourages engagement with that information through interactions with the data, comparing historical patterns of energy data, and labeling patterns observed. Furthermore e-Genie encourages people to take action to reduce energy use by providing users with support for: planning individual behaviour changes; discussing issues with other building users; and by contacting the Facilities Manager directly.
The current deployment of e-Genie will allow us to refine the tool and develop it for further larger scale trials. We hope that the tool's use will result in significant reductions in energy use but is also designed to allow us to test hypotheses around the best way to engage workplace building users with energy saving efforts.
Facilities Management paper wins BSA prize
(Jan, 2016) A recent paper written by myself and Murray Goulden on the role of the FM in organisational energy use has been highlighted by the British Sociological Association as worthy of an award. We have been placed third in prizes awarded for noteworthy sociological papers relating to climate change. There will be a prize giving in the spring and the judges note:
“Goulden and Spence make a strong theoretical and empirical case for paying greater attention to ‘middle agents’ in energy networks, in this case the apparently mundane role of Facilities Manager. Studying these managers provide key insights to the messy issues and conflicting logics that lie behind macro-scale carbon reduction targets. The paper brings together literature on energy consumption and organisational sociology with rich empirical detail, with a welcome eye on practical recommendations for action.”
Notably we find that people with affordability concerns about energy are less likely to accept DSM, and this is partly explained by a lower willingness to share their energy data. Indeed a significant proportion of people across the UK (around 20%) said they wouldn't share their data with any of the groups we specified.
Horizon Energy Research
Check out our video overviews of our energy research at Horizon.