Considering energy research for a just and rapid energy transition: UMass Amherst


A series of national workshops hosted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Energy Transition Institute (ETI) identified research priorities at the intersection of energy technology and social justice, a key area of ​​focus for agencies such as as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy and its Energy Justice Initiative. The resulting paper, a multi-university collaboration, was published in the journal Nature Energy.

The ETI workshop series, held in 2021, was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of its 2026 Idea Machine initiative, which aims to uncover “grand challenges” in research with a potential for transformative impact, in preparation for the 250th anniversary of the United States in 2026.

“The workshop participants came from a variety of backgrounds in energy science and technology and in the social sciences and humanities,” says D. Venkataraman, professor of chemistry at UMass Amherst and principal investigator for the funding. “They incorporated diverse perspectives, across disciplines and sectors, on how the US energy system can move quickly and equitably away from fossil fuels.

This collaboration resulted in the Nature Energy document which proposes five key actions for government agencies and philanthropic institutions to implement a commitment to an equitable energy transition: redefining equity as an integral part of energy technology research because of its impact on society; solicit community feedback throughout the grant cycle; develop formal ways to address challenges that arise from community engagement; expanding review and award criteria to include assessments of community engagement, equity analysis, and multidisciplinary engagement; and institute structural reforms to better meet the needs of interdisciplinary research at all levels.

Contributing authors include researchers from 11 leading colleges and universities, including the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the Indiana University, Colby College and Occidental College.

“The energy transition offers an opportunity to end a variety of historical injustices that have been exacerbated by the design and operation of existing energy systems,” says Erin Baker, ETI Faculty Director. “And building equity into a research agenda requires fundamental changes to the grantmaking and grant review process.”

The authors recommend that energy transition research engage directly with marginalized communities by engaging with historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic service institutions, and tribal colleges, among others.

The Nature Energy article is available here:


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