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Prof Chris Foulds

Professor of Sustainability and Society

Global Sustainability Institute

Faculty of Science and Engineering
Areas of Expertise:
Consumption and change
Research Supervision:

Chris is an interdisciplinary Environmental Social Scientist, who uses the critical Social Sciences to explore policy and governance interventions for sustainability. He has secured £8m+ as (co-)Principal Investigator, plus a further £10m+ as Co-Investigator, in research project income over the last five years alone.

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Chris is a Professor at the Global Sustainability Institute (GSI), joining in 2013. He co-leads the GSI’s Consumption & Change theme. He uses perspectives grounded in Sociology, Human Geography, and Science and Technology Studies. This builds on his background in Environmental (Social) Sciences, and in particular climate change, sustainable energy and buildings.

He is co-lead of the €5m Horizon2020 SHARED GREEN DEAL (Social sciences & Humanities for Achieving a Responsible, Equitable and Desirable GREEN DEAL) project (2022-2027), which is running 24 social experiments around six EU Green Deal policy areas, on route to establishing a multi-stakeholder Green Deal policy network in partnership with the European Commission. Chris is also CoI of the BEIS- and CIFF-funded £4.8m EEIST (Economics of Energy Innovation Systems Transition) project (2020-2023), where he compares expectations of EU policymakers with EU energy modellers.

Chris co-led the €1m Horizon2020 Energy-SHIFTS (Energy Social sciences & Humanities Innovation Forum Targeting the SET-Plan) project (2019-2021) and the €2m Horizon2020 SHAPE ENERGY (Social Sciences & Humanities for Advancing Policy in European ENERGY) project (2017-2019). These projects reported directly to the European Commission’s DG for Research & Innovation, in a policy advisory capacity and as a gateway into Europe’s energy-SSH communities. Chris has significant experience of representing SSH interests in EU funding systems, including as e.g. Member State delegation representative, EC expert evaluator, DG RTD advisor on forthcoming call texts, and proposal-writing masterclass organiser. He was also PI on the EPSRC (via UKERC) Energy-PIECES project, which supported early career SSH researchers in energy policy secondments (e.g. BEIS).

In terms of innovation and inclusivity, he was PI on the £150k GCRF Gender Equity and Energy Access in the Global South project (2020-2021), PI for €250k COSME Energy in Water project (2016-2018), and CoI (ARU lead) for €3m Horizon2020 RRING (Responsible Research & Innovation Networked Globally) project (2017-2021).

He has extensive experience of multi-stakeholder engagement approaches across a range of scales, governance contexts and citizen/professional communities. His research works hard to bring critical social science concepts alongside participatory methods that are open to all.

Research interests

1. Systems of interdisciplinary working: how are different disciplines brought together, and with what expectations? How are policy, funding and university institutional structures shaping interdisciplinarity? What constitutes ‘good’ (policy) evidence, and why?

2. Governance of sociotechnical transformations: how are policy and governance agendas driving sociotechnical change? How can critical social theory be of use in developing more effective governance responses to global challenges? How best to account for intersectionality and gender equity concerns?

3. Sustainable everyday life: how do social practices shape the pursuit of sustainability? What can be gained by moving away from ‘consumers’ to e.g. carriers of social practice, ideas of citizenship, as well as considering the ‘everydayness’ of professional work?

4. Energy in the built environment: what may be the unintended social consequences of technological changes? What are the implications of pursuing e.g. ever greater energy efficiency and now ever ‘smarter’ technologies?

Areas of research supervision
  • Stefano Magariello (2018-), ‘Inside low carbon energy transition policymaking: local governance imaginaries and practices’
  • Veronika Torma (2014-2021), ‘Analysing stakeholder engagement: Stakeholder involvement in urban living labs and the main processes needed to establish a living laboratory’
  • Lauren Stabler (2016-2021), ‘Experimenting with methodological advancements to the Transition Management framework: a case study on city-regional housing and future wellbeing’ 
  • Obehi Sule (2014-2019), ‘Embedding sustainability within Higher Education: Current commitments, approaches and outcomes in Higher Educational Institutions’
  • Norbert Edomah (2014-2017), ‘Nigeria's energy transitions: Policy decisions, influences and unintended consequences’

Chris contributes to our MSc Sustainability. He currently leads its teaching on Qualitative Research Methods, and has also led its Governance & Behavioural Change module. He guest lectures regularly on other ARU Undergraduate and Masters courses, and similarly does so for other universities too. He has also hosted numerous Nuffield sixth-form students as well as Undergraduate summer research taster placements.

  • PhD, Environmental Social Sciences, University of East Anglia
  • MRes, Environmental Social Sciences, University of East Anglia (Distinction)
  • BSc(Hons), Environmental Sciences with a Year in Industry, University of East Anglia (First Class)
  • PGCert, Higher Education, Anglia Ruskin University
Memberships, editorial boards

Chris has significant experience of a range of advisory and associate positions. Current, selected examples include:

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Chris has led a number of projects funded through the EU, UK Research Councils, UK Government Departments, Newton, British Academy, as well as various charities and foundations. He has also undertaken a number of consultancy projects for the private sector.

For a fuller record of all past and current projects, please see the GSI’s Consumption & Change projects page

Selected recent publications
Systems of interdisciplinary working

Silvast, A., Foulds, C., 2022. Sociology of Interdisciplinarity: Dynamics of energy research (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan).

Bharucha, Z., Krupnik, S., Robison, R., Foulds, C., Bode, N., Rudek, T., 2021. Horizon Scanning and Policy Fellowships to embed Social Sciences and Humanities within EU energy research and innovation policy: An Energy-SHIFTS evaluation (Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS).

Robison, R., Foulds, C., 2021. Social Sciences and Humanities for the European Green Deal. 10 recommendations from the EU Energy SSH Innovation Forum (Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS).

Royston, S., Foulds, C., 2021. The making of energy evidence: How exclusions of Social Sciences and Humanities are reproduced (and what researchers can do about it). Energy Research & Social Science, 77, 102084.

de Geus, T., Bode, N., Robison, R., Rohse, M., Foulds, C., Wagner, A., Krupnik, S., Świątkiewicz-Mośny, M., Rudek, T., Kuittinen, H. Lisi, V., Søraa, R., Lunevich, I., Wittmayer, J., 2020. Shifting perspectives: insights from the Energy Policy Fellowships (Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS).

Ingeborgrud, L., Heidenreich, S., Ryghaug, M., Skjølsvold, T.M., Foulds, C., Robison, R., Buchmann, K., Mourik, R., 2020. Expanding the scope and implications of energy research: A guide to key themes and concepts from the Social Sciences and Humanities. Energy Research and Social Science, 63, 101398.

Foulds, C., Bharucha, Z. P., Krupnik, S., de Geus, T., Suboticki, I., Royston, S., Ryghaug, M., 2019. An approach to identifying future Social Sciences & Humanities energy research priorities for Horizon Europe: Working Group guidelines for systematic Horizon Scanning (Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS).

Royston, S., Foulds, C., 2019. Use of evidence in energy policy: the roles, capacities and expectations of Social Sciences and Humanities: Scoping workshop report (Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS).

Foulds, C., Robison, R. (Eds.), 2018. Advancing Energy Policy: Lessons on the integration of Social Sciences and Humanities (London: Palgrave Macmillan).

Foulds, C., Robison, R., 2017. The SHAPE ENERGY lexicon: interpreting energy-related social sciences and humanities terminology (Cambridge: SHAPE ENERGY).

Robison, R. A. V., Foulds, C., 2017. Creating an interdisciplinary energy lexicon: Working with terminology differences in support of better energy policy, Proceedings of the eceee 2017 Summer Study on Consumption, Efficiency & Limits, paper 1-267-17. 29 May - 3 June 2017, Presqu'ile de Giens, France, pp. 121-130.

Foulds, C., Robison, R., Balint, L., Sonetti, G., 2017. Headline reflections - SHAPE ENERGY Call for Evidence (Cambridge: SHAPE ENERGY).

Foulds, C., Fox, E., Robison, R., Balint, L., 2017. Editorial – four social sciences and humanities cross-cutting theme reports (Cambridge: SHAPE ENERGY).

Fox, E., Foulds, C., Robison, R., 2017. Energy and the active consumer – a social sciences and humanities cross-cutting theme report (Cambridge: SHAPE ENERGY).

Foulds, C., Christensen, T.H., 2016. Funding pathways to a low-carbon transition. Nature Energy, 1, 16087.

Nordhagen, S., Calverley, D., Foulds, C., O'Keefe, L., Wang, X., 2014. Climate change research and credibility: balancing tensions across professional, personal, and public domains. Climatic Change, 125(2), pp. 149-162.

Governance of sociotechnical transformations

Edomah, N., Foulds, C., Malo, I., 2021. Energy Access and Gender in Nigeria: Policy Brief (Cambridge: Global Sustainability Institute).

Khalid, R., Foulds, C., 2021. Gendering practices and policies in the South: Lessons for improved equity and sustainability in Pakistan’s domestic energy sector, Conference Proceedings of the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Summer Study 2021 (Stockholm: eceee).

Stabler, L., Foulds, C., 2020. Governing the UK’s transition to decarbonised heating: Lessons from a systematic review of past and ongoing heat transitions (London: UK Energy Research Centre).

Wittmayer, J. M., de Geus, T., Pel, B., Avelino, F., Hielscher, S., Hoppe, T., Mühlemeier, S., Stasik, A., Oxenaar, S., Rogge, K. S., Visser, V., Marín-González, E., Ooms, M., Buitelaar, S., Foulds, C., Petrick, K., Klarwein, S., Krupnik, S., de Vries, G., Härtwig, A., 2020. Beyond instrumentalism: Broadening the understanding of social innovation in socio-technical energy systems. Energy Research & Social Science, 70, 101689.

Lacey-Barnacle, M., Robison, R., Foulds, C., 2020. Energy justice in the developing world: A review of theoretical frameworks, key research themes and policy implications. Energy for Sustainable Development, 55, pp. 122-138.

Robison, R.A., Foulds, C., 2017. Constructing policy success for UK energy feedback. Building Research & Information, 46(3), pp. 316-331.

Edomah, N., Foulds, C., Jones, A., 2017. Policy making and energy infrastructure change: A Nigerian case study of energy governance in the electricity sector, Energy Policy, 102, pp. 476-485.

Edomah, N., Foulds, C., Jones, A., 2016. The Role of Policy Makers and Institutions in the Energy Sector: The Case of Energy Infrastructure Governance in Nigeria. Sustainability, 8(8), pp. 829.

Edomah, N., Foulds, C., Jones, A., 2016. Energy Transitions in Nigeria: The Evolution of Energy Infrastructure Provision (1800–2015). Energies, 9(7), pp. 484.

Sustainable everyday life

Foulds, C., Robison, R. A. V., Macrorie, R., 2017. Energy monitoring as a practice: Investigating use of the iMeasure online energy feedback tool, Energy Policy, 104, pp. 194-202.

Robison, R., Foulds, C., Lertzman, R. (Eds.), 2017. Behaviour Change from the Inside Out: applications of psychosocial ideas to sustainability (Cambridge: Global Sustainability Institute).

Foulds, C., Morosanu, R., 2016. Controlling busyness: The promises of smart home industry discourses. In: Macrorie, R., Wade, F. (Eds.). Daily life, digital technologies and energy demand – A working paper collection (Sheffield, Cambridge: Urban Institute (University of Sheffield), Balance Network (Anglia Ruskin University), pp. 22-28.

Foulds, C., Powell, J., Seyfang, G., 2016. How moving home influences appliance ownership: a Passivhaus case study. Energy Efficiency, 9(2), pp. 455-472.

Macrorie, R., Foulds, C., Hargreaves, T., 2015. Governing and governed by practices: exploring governance interventions in low-carbon housing policy and practice. In: Strengers, Y. and Maller, C. Social Practices, Interventions and Sustainability: Beyond Behaviour Change (Abingdon: Routledge).

Foulds, C., Jensen, C. L., Blue, S., Morosanu, R. (Eds.), 2015. Practices, the Built Environment and Sustainability – Responses to the Thinking Note Collection (Cambridge, Copenhagen, London: GSI, DIST, BSA CCSG).

Foulds, C., Jensen, C. L. (Eds.), 2014. Practices, the Built Environment and Sustainability - A Thinking Note Collection (Cambridge, Copenhagen, London: GSI, DIST, BSA CCSG).

Foulds, C., Powell, J., Seyfang, G., 2013. Investigating the performance of everyday domestic practices using building monitoring. Building Research & Information, 41(6), pp. 622-636.

Energy in the built environment

Foulds, C., Berker, T., Royston, S., Nakopoulou, E., Suboticki, I., 2021. Energy efficiency: A Social Sciences and Humanities annotated bibliography (Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS).

Foulds, C., Royston, S., Berker, T., Nakopoulou, E., Abram, S., Ančić, B., Arapostathis, E., Badescu, G., Bull, R., Cohen, J., Dunlop, T., Dunphy, N., Dupont, C., Fischer, C., Gram-Hanssen, K., Grandclément, C., Heiskanen, E., Labanca, N., Jeliazkova, M., Jörgens, H., Keller, M., Kern, F., Lombardi, P., Mourik, R., Ornetzeder, M., Pearson, P., Rohracher, H., Sahakian, M., Sari, R., Standal, K., Živčič, L., 2020. 100 Social Sciences and Humanities priority research questions for energy efficiency in Horizon Europe (Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS).

Ryghaug, M., Subotički, I., von Wirth, T., Smeds, E., Scherrer, A., Foulds, C., Bertolini, L., Beyazit, E., Brand, R., Cohen-Blankshtain, G. Dijk, M., Freudendal-Pedersen, M., Gössling, S., Guzik, R., Kivimaa, P., Klöckner, C., Nikolova, C. L., Lis, A., Marquet, O., Milakis, D., Mladenović, M.N., Mom, G., Mullen, C., Ortar, N., Paola, P., Oliveira, C.S., Schwanen, T., Seidenglanz, D., Tuvikene, T., Wentland, A., 2020. 100 Social Sciences and Humanities priority research questions for transport and mobility in Horizon Europe (Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS).

von Wirth, T., Loorbach, D., Wagner, A., Koretskaya, O., Wade, R., Krupnik, S., Rudek, T., Foulds, C., Adem, C., Akerboom, S., Batel, S., Caspar Rabitz, F., Certoma C., Cherp, A., Chodkowska-Miszczuk, J., Denac, M., Dokupilová, D., Dotterud Leiren, M., Frolova Ignatieva, M., Gabaldón-Estevan, D., Horta, A., Karnøe, P., Lilliestam, J., Markard, J., Mišik, M., Mühlemeier, S., Nemoz, S., Nilsson, M., Osička, J., Papamikrouli, L., Pellizioni, L., Sareen, S., Sarrica, M., Seyfang, G., Smith Stegen, K., Sovacool, B., Telesiene, A., Zapletalova, V., 2020. 100 Social Sciences and Humanities priority research questions for renewable energy in Horizon Europe (Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS).

Robison, R., Skjølsvold, T. M., Lehne, J., Judson, E., Pechancová, V., Foulds, C., Bilous, L., Büscher, C., Carrus, G., Darby, S., DemirbağKaplan, M., Douzou, S., Drevenšek, M., Frantál, B., Guimarães Pereira, A., Hargreaves, T., Karvonen, A., Katzeff, C., Kola-Bezka, M., Laakso, S., Lettmayer, G., March, H., Parag, Y., Renstroem, S., Sáfián, F., Swora, M., Tjørring, L., van der Werff, E., van Vliet, B., Wallenborn, G., Wolsink, M., Wyckmans, A. 2020. 100 Social Sciences and Humanities priority research questions for smart consumption in Horizon Europe (Cambridge: Energy-SHIFTS).

Warren, G., Foulds, C., 2020. ‘Better’ domestic energy advice in England? A narrative literature review (London: UK Energy Research Centre).

Khalid, R., Foulds, C., 2020. The social dimensions of moving away from gas cookers and hobs: Challenges and opportunities in transition to low-carbon cooking (London: UK Energy Research Centre).

Sumpf, P., Klemm, M., Throndsen, W., Büscher, C., Robison, R., Schippl, J., Foulds, C., Buchmann, K., Nikolaev, A. and Kern-Gillard, T., 2017. Energy system optimisation and smart technologies – a social sciences and humanities annotated bibliography (Cambridge: SHAPE ENERGY).

Buchmann, K., Robison, R., Foulds, C., 2017. Transport sector decarbonisation – a social sciences and humanities annotated bibliography (Cambridge: SHAPE ENERGY).

Palmer, J., Terry, N., Foulds, C., Godoy-Shimizu, D., Armitage, P., Clack, N., 2015. Warm and green: Achieving affordable, low carbon energy while reducing impacts on the countryside. Research report on behalf of Campaign to Protect Rural England, London.

Powell, J., Monahan, J., Foulds, C., 2015. Building futures: Managing energy in the built environment (Abingdon: Routledge).

Foulds, C., Powell, J., 2014. Using the Homes Energy Efficiency Database as a research resource for residential insulation improvements. Energy Policy, 69, pp. 57-72.