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Integrating Social Sciences and Humanities into Teaching about Energy
Start date: Sep 1, 2016, End date: Aug 31, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The relationship between technology and society changes; it is becoming a widely recognized view that future technology policies including energy policies have to be not only technically, but also socially acceptable. While it is uncertain what this shift means for the transformation of political decision-making about energy, the implications for the scientific ethos are obvious. It seems to be no longer tenable to view the research as accomplished in the seclusion of laboratories and detached from the impact of energy technologies on social systems. If science is to assist political reason convincingly, then competences have to be built, which allow conceiving the technical and the social as two interlinked phenomena. Should the European scientific community draw on the benefits of complementary expertise with possible unforeseen synergy effects, then it has to set out for a mission of transdisciplinary learning and education. The main goal of the project is to fill the gap between social sciences and humanities (SSH) on the one side and technical energy education on the other. To accomplish this goal, project partners will 1) map the demand for SSH approaches at technical higher education institutions (HEIs) in project countries, 2) design the “Edu-Kit” as a complex and flexible set of teaching modules covering various topics associated with social aspects of energy, 3) test teaching modules at partner technical HEIs and during two Student Winter Schools. As the primary target group of project activities and outputs will be the teaching staff from technical HEIs and the secondary target group will be MA and Ph.D. students, the project aims at innovative transposing of SSH knowledge to the domain of higher technical education.The preconditions for this mission are twofold. First, this effort can largely benefit from rich and well developed stream of science and technology studies within SSH, but also from such research areas as theory of participative democracy, sociology of environment, development studies, ethics of responsibility and justice etc. Second, the project is partially based on findings and recommendations of two recent FP7 EURATOM projects: PLATENSO and InSOTEC. Both of them stressed the need for establishing institutionalized solutions for integrating SSH and energy research and teaching. The consortium of 7 project partners from 4 countries connects institutions from both social and technical sciences, reflects their different specialisations and also various national situations in the field of energy. The aim was to cover the most important areas of current energy research and teaching. Polish technical partner specializes in electric power grids, the Czech one in nuclear energy and the Spanish one in designing of energy systems and use of various energy resources. The German partner is an interdisciplinary research centre with focus on geothermal energy and renewable resources and represents the shift towards carbon-free and nuclear-free energy. The 3 partners from SSH are from Poland, the Czech Republic and Spain; they all have long-lasting experience with research, teaching and communication about energy issues and can benefit from their joint participation in the PLATENSO project.The core of the project work is the elaboration of materials for introduction of innovative educational practices into technical teaching. The methodological approach emphasises transdisciplinary and multinational cooperation and mutual learning at the higher level of education, but also employs stakeholder workshops to integrate interests of commercial institutions and public administration. The multifaceted composition of the project team will allow producing results with relevance for technical HEIs in all EU member states. To make these results widely available, applicable and attractive for educational purposes, a web-platform will be launched that will be divided into 8 teaching modules and will comprise educational materials in the form of Power Point presentations, readings, selection of pre-designed learning activities, exercises and audio-visual outputs.The impact of the project is foreseen in short-term and in long-term time span. In the short-term, the project will boost transdisciplinary cooperation in teaching on energy in countries participating in the project and may arouse interest of young students and scholars in the topic. In the long term, the dissemination of results will promote broader application of the materials in teaching with possible cumulative effects. This will be the benefit of the project for the upcoming years of energy transformation. If Europeans are “to be at the core of the Energy Union” (EC), we need educated energy experts capable of addressing their social needs, behavioural patterns, ideas and values.
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