Taking sides ? Productive engagement between academia and activism on the climate

Taking sides ? Productive engagement between academia and activism on the climate

Virtual workshop of the ENGAGE rVirtual workshop of the ENGAGE research network: 12th, 20th, 26th May 2021esearch network


Both advocates and critics of accelerated climate action and energy transition criticise the procedures and outputs of mainstream climate science. Climate philosophy highlights ideal analyses with little direct application in real world politics and activism. Social and political scientists offer uncertain answers on how change might be supported. Around us the impacts of climate change intensify, and responses within and beyond energy systems continue to fall short of the challenge, while public discourses fragment and polarise in a ‘post-truth’ political climate, in which research findings can be co-opted or misinterpreted to political ends. Some politicians and academics, and many activists, argue that we face a ‘climate emergency’.


For climate and energy researchers, what does it mean to be ‘engaged’ with the issues, publics and activism in an era of ‘climate emergency’? Is it possible or even desirable to avoid ‘taking sides’?            


This virtual workshop will tackle these and related timely questions:

  • How should researchers respond to a climate emergency?              
  • What value do activists see in different types of research, what do they want from the research community and how and why does this vary?
  • What does research credibility, legitimacy and independence mean for academics and activists?
  • What does engagement mean for activists and academics?                       
  • How can researchers constructively examine the pros and cons of the ‘climate emergency’ framing?
  • What models of engagement by activists and communities with researchers have proved most productive? How might these models need to evolve?
  • How might we redefine ‘research impact’ to include benefits for communities and activists when funders tend to measure it in terms of commercial or national policy relevance?
  • How can researchers mobilise funding and access relevant stakeholders, while being committed to necessary environmental and social change?


The workshop will involve presentations from researchers and networks struggling with these questions. The workshop will involve 20-30 participants, roughly equally drawn from academia and activism, and from the UK, France, and Quebec, as partner regions in the Engage project.


Organizers : Dunan McLaren (Lancaster University), Gordon Walker (Lancaster University), Olivier Labussière (CNRS, Pacte), Alain Nadaï (CNRS, CIRED)


The GDRI ENGAGE is an international research group about Climate-energy, engaging social sciences, it is supported by the French National Research Center (CNRS). ENGAGE contributes to an international network of social sciences laboratories in partnership with NGOs




Chercheur.e.s impliqué.e.s : 

Ouvert à tous