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  • © 2022

Sociology of Interdisciplinarity

The Dynamics of Energy Research

Palgrave Macmillan
  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access.

  • Presents a new framework, the Sociology of Interdisciplinarity, drawing insights from STS and other literature

  • Provides a detailed examination of the conception of interdisciplinary energy research

  • Produces fresh insights into the lived experiences and actual contents of interdisciplinarity

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Table of contents (5 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xix
  2. Introduction

    • Antti Silvast, Chris Foulds
    Pages 1-21Open Access
  3. Whole Systems Thinking and Modelling in the UK

    • Antti Silvast, Chris Foulds
    Pages 23-47Open Access
  4. Environment-Friendly Energy Research in Norway

    • Antti Silvast, Chris Foulds
    Pages 49-70Open Access
  5. Calculating the ‘Price’ of Infrastructure Reliability in Finland

    • Antti Silvast, Chris Foulds
    Pages 71-90Open Access
  6. A Sociology of Interdisciplinarity

    • Antti Silvast, Chris Foulds
    Pages 91-120Open Access
  7. Back Matter

    Pages 121-125

About this book

This Open Access book builds upon Science and Technology Studies (STS) and provides a detailed examination of how large-scale energy research projects have been conceived, and with what consequences for those involved in interdisciplinary research, which has been advocated as the zenith of research practice for many years, quite often in direct response to questions that cannot be answered (or even preliminarily investigated) by disciplines working separately. It produces fresh insights into the lived experiences and actual contents of interdisciplinarity, rather than simply commentating on how it is being explicitly advocated. We present empirical studies on large-scale energy research projects from the United Kingdom, Norway, and Finland. The book presents a new framework, the Sociology of Interdisciplinarity, which unpacks interdisciplinary research in practice. This book will be of interest to all those interested in well-functioning interdisciplinary research systems and the dynamics of doing interdisciplinarity, including real ground-level experiences and institutional interdependencies. 


  • Interdisciplinarity
  • energy research
  • STS
  • Research policy
  • energy social research
  • Open Access


“This book is a welcome contribution to the energy social sciences field,­ based on broad consensus that sociological insights are crucial in addressing today’s complex energy and climate challenges. Its novel multi-sited approach highlights practical case studies, strategies and methods to emphasise what works when it comes to interdisciplinarity and, importantly, what doesn’t.”

Tessa Dunlop, Policy Analyst, Directorate-General Joint Research Centre, European Commission, Italy


I highly welcome this important and timely contribution on the experiences of researching the energy transition. Through a critical analysis of empirical cases, it brings a much-needed social scientific understanding to the promises, complexities and challenges of doing interdisciplinary research, at a time when it has never been more essential to societies.”

– Adel El Gammal, Secretary General, European Energy Research Alliance, Belgium


“This concise and timely book offers valuable concrete insights into how interdisciplinarity works in practice through an exploration of a variety of energy projects across Europe. In focussing not only on individual scholars and their experiences, but also on wider contexts such as the impacts of funding structures, different access to resources, and power relations, Sociology of Interdisciplinarity will be a significant resource for energy scholars and practitioners.”

Frances Fahy, Professor of Geography, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland.


“Silvast and Foulds show how unequal relationships across the disciplines contribute to how interdisciplinary collaborations are constructed. Although researchers in the technical disciplines routinely seek social scientists as partners, they also selectively construct social science to fit their existing methods and research programmes. This book shows how in many cases, the critical side of social sciences is replaced by a narrower focus on customers and demand. In doing so, Silvast and Foulds recuperate this critical side and bring it into the discussions of what interdisciplinary research can be.”

– David Hess, Professor of Sociology, Vanderbilt University, USA


“Here is a refreshing perspective on interdisciplinarity. Drawing on energy research from Finland, Norway and the UK, Silvast and Foulds develop an analytical framework for understanding interdisciplinary research as a social activity. The framework promises to serve not only as an invaluable guide to thinking seriously about interdisciplinarity, but also as a reasoned antidote against uncritical hyperbole about its virtues.”

Janne I. Hukkinen, Professor of Environmental Policy, University of Helsinki, Finland


“Silvast and Foulds explore the practicalities behind building bridges between different approaches, canons and scientific cultures. This is good news to anyone who, like them, believes that breaking down such barriers and drawing on different sources of knowledge is essential for addressing today’s societal challenges, not least the transition to climate-neutrality and a more sustainable energy system.”

Gerd Schönwälder, Policy Officer, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Commission, Belgium


“This book provides living examples of how interdisciplinarity is constructed and negotiated through institutional rules and researchers' activities. A nuanced picture of various epistemic cultures serves to explore: how differently knowledges can be produced; how these differences can be recognised and understood; and how these knowledge can be exchanged between different communities. This thought-provoking research provides deeper insights into the practices of conducting interdisciplinary research. It is a must-have for all working interdisciplinarily and for those interested in knowledge production.”

Aleksandra Wagner, Associate Professor, Institute of Sociology, Jagiellonian University


“This book ‘lifts the lid’ on energy interdisciplinarity as practice. Drawing on case studies across a range of institutional and intellectual settings, and bringing these together with concepts from critical social science, the authors set out an ambitious new analytical framing. By recognising and discussing the challenges and ambivalences involved (especially for social scientists) alongside the opportunities, Silvast and Foulds offer a welcome and timely contribution.”

– Mark Winskel, Senior Lecturer in Science Technology & Innovation Studies, University of Edinburgh, UK


“Even though I’ve been involved in interdisciplinary energy research for more than 20 years, this book is an eye opener for me. The authors offer refreshing insights into the project of doing interdisciplinary research, which will fascinate scholars. The nuanced discussion of empirical cases from energy research in the UK, Norway and Finland also makes the book equally relevant to practitioners and funders of interdisciplinary research.”

– Tanja Winther, Professor and Head of FME Include–Research centre for socially inclusive energy transition, University of Oslo, Norway.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway

    Antti Silvast

  • Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK

    Chris Foulds

About the authors

Antti Silvast holds a researcher position in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). He is a Sociologist examining energy infrastructure, most recently smart systems, methodology, and energy modelling.
Chris Foulds is an Associate Professor at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (Cambridge, UK). He is an interdisciplinary Environmental Social Scientist researching how society and everyday life intersect with energy policies, governance, consumption, and the built environment.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Sociology of Interdisciplinarity

  • Book Subtitle: The Dynamics of Energy Research

  • Authors: Antti Silvast, Chris Foulds

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Social Sciences, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2022

  • License: CC BY

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-88454-3Published: 04 December 2021

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-88455-0Published: 03 December 2021

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XIX, 125

  • Number of Illustrations: 3 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: Sociology, general, Energy Policy, Economics and Management, Environment, general, Environmental Policy

Buy it now

Buying options

Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Other ways to access