High time for Sweden’s schoolchildren to become energy researchers

5 oktober 2021

Illusttration of a boy asking a woman a question

Pupils will now get the chance to participate in real research by interviewing people about renewable energy.

The project Energy Researchers is now underway, offering pupils between the ages of 10 and 15 the opportunity to participate in real research. By interviewing people about renewable energy, they can help scientists at Uppsala University to understand how smart energy solutions can have the most benefit.

Energy sources such as coal and oil are neither inexhaustible nor environmentally friendly. The Earth’s population is also consuming energy at such a rate that it is affecting the climate. While work is underway all over the world to identify new and better energy sources, if nobody wants to or is able to use the new technology, it does no good. To learn more about the attitudes of various societal groups to different energy sources, Uppsala University is launching a citizen science project.

In the project, Energy Researchers, middle and secondary school pupils will interview their neighbours, friends and families about their thoughts on renewable energy. The hope is that we will discover more about attitudes to new energy technology such as photovoltaics, electric vehicles and energy-efficient buildings. Researchers are also hoping to learn whether attitudes differ depending on where and how people live.

Hoping to recruit many school classes

Klas Palm is a researcher at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management and project manager of Energy Researchers:

Project manager Klas Palm at the Depart-
ment of Industrial Engineering and Manage-
ment.

“We hope that many middle and secondary-school classes will help us to gather data that as researchers we could never reach ourselves. If around 20 kids in each class are willing to help, and they each interview, say, 10 people. That will amount to a great many respondents! Such an enormous amount of data would be invaluable. It will provide us with a basis for studying how we can create the conditions for sustainable energy development in the community, that are inclusive and contribute to sustainable social development.”

The students will enter responses from interviews into a form that can be accessed from a smartphone or computer and the answers will be stored in a database for evaluation by researchers. The results of the survey will be available on the Uppsala University website as early as this winter.

The citizen science project is part of the Formas-funded research project Sustainable or segregated? Energy communities for a broad sustainable energy transition. The project gathers researchers from Uppsala University’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Management and Institute for Housing and Urban Research, as well as energy advisers working for Uppsala Municipality.

Invitation to Swedish teachers

ERegistration for Energy Researchers opened on 13 September and invitations were sent to all civics teachers in Swedish middle and secondary schools. A teacher’s guide is available describing how interviews should be set up and offering tips on interviewing techniques. The classes are also invited to enter a competition for writing debate articles about the subject.

“The material provided to teachers includes a good deal about good research practice. How does one ask questions without influencing the respondent? And how can one behave towards or reach those with no interest in the subject? In the long run, we hope to obtain more information about how we can foster commitment and energy communities within different socioeconomic areas, based on everyone’s energy needs,” says Klas Palm.