Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Comment
  • Published:

Place-based reflexivity for just energy social science

Where host communities are marginalized by industry practices, energy social science researchers must ensure that their research does not doubly exacerbate extractive practices. Place-based reflexivity provides a set of principles and concrete practices for researchers to avoid extractive relations with host communities and promote contextually relevant and democratic processes in pursuit of a just transition.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout


  1. Bell, S. E., Daggett, C. & Labuski, C. Energy Res. Soc. Sci. 68, 101557 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Devine-Wright, P. & Howes, Y. J. Environ. Psychol. 30, 271–280 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Ryder, S. & Devine-Wright, P. Env. Polit. 31, 1161–1181 (2022).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Hill, P. C. The social construction of black feminist thought. In Women, Knowledge, and Reality 222–248. (Routledge, 2015).

  5. Klenk, N., Fiume, A., Meehan, K. & Gibbes, C. WIREs Clim. Change 8, e475 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Jenkins, J., Boone, K., Bosworth, K., Lehman, J. & Loder, T. Extr. Ind. Soc. 2, 680–682 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Vera, L. A. et al. Inf. Commun. Soc. 22, 1012–1028 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Jacquet, J. B., Pathak, R., Haggerty, J. H., Theodori, G. L. & Kroepsch, A. E. Energy Res. Soc. Sci. 73, 101918 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Harding, S. G. (ed.) Feminism and Methodology: Social Science Issues (Indiana University Press, 1987).

  10. McDowell, L. Doing gender: Feminism, feminists and research methods in human geography. In Space, Gender, Knowledge: Feminist Readings 105–114 (Routledge, 2016).

  11. Kirsch, G. E. Ethical Dilemmas in Feminist Research (State University of New York Press, 1999).

  12. Dottolo, A. L. & Tillery, S. M. In Reflexivity and International Relations: Positionality, Critique, and Practice (eds Amoureux, J. L. & Steele, B. J.) 123–141 (Routledge, 2015).

  13. Valentine, G. People like us: Negotiating sameness and difference in the research process. In Feminist Geography in Practice: Research and Methods (ed. Moss, P.) 116–117 (Blackwell Publisher Ltd, 2002).

  14. Faria, C. & Mollett, S. Gend. Place Cult. 23, 79–93 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Gieryn, T. F. Ann. Rev. Sociol. 26, 463–496 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Clayton, S. et al. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 640–646 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Devine-Wright, P. et al. Environ. Psychol. 72, 101514 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Creswell, T. Place: A Short Introduction (Wiley Blackwell, 2004).

  19. Cannon, C., Bonnell, J., Padilla, M. & Sulca, D. Energy Res. Soc. Sci. 96, 102948 (2023).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Waitt, G. Area 50, 314–321 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Gewin, V. Nature 619, 885–887 (2023).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. IPCC Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (eds Lee, H. & Romero, J.) (IPCC, 2023).

Download references


Input by S.R. was enabled by funding from the NERC/ESRC Unconventional Hydrocarbons in the UK programme, project title: “ASSIST - Understanding the spatial and temporal dynamics of public attitudes and community responses to shale gas: an integrated approach”, grant reference: NE/R017727/1. Input by P.D.-W. was, in addition to grant reference: NE/R017727/1, also enabled by ESRC funding, project title: ACCESS (Advancing Capacity in Climate and Environment Social Science), grant ref: ES/W00805X/1. We would like to acknowledge the input of our researched communities in Woodsetts, Great Altcar, Formby and Colwyn Bay as well as colleagues in the ASSIST and ACCESS project teams.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



The authors contributed equally to this work.

Positionality statement Patrick Devine-Wright (he/him) is a white man who was born in Ireland and has lived in the UK for the past 30 years. His gender, social class and ethnicity have afforded various privileges throughout his academic career. His approach to research has continually evolved, influenced by disciplinary training and work experience in Environmental Psychology, Social Psychology and Human Geography. This has led to a shift from purely quantitative/positivist to mixed-method/critical and constructionist approaches with a strong recognition of the value of qualitative research and plural forms of knowledge. He has spent two decades researching the lived experiences of communities impacted by energy infrastructure projects, critiqued ‘NIMBY’ assumptions about community objections and advocated siting approaches sensitive to place attachments. He has volunteered in a local Community Energy initiative (Exeter Community Energy, ECOE). His current role as Director of the ACCESS network involves reflexive interventions to empower early career researchers, and to increase equality, diversity and inclusion, sustainability and knowledge co-production across environmental social science. Stacia Ryder (she/her) is a white, cisgender woman who was born in the US and has worked in higher education institutions in both the US and the UK. Her race and nationality have afforded her various privileges in academia, though her status as a first-generation student has meant that she is continuously still learning how to navigate and challenge the culture of academia. She is an early-career sociologist and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Utah State University, who primarily uses qualitative methodology to explore interdisciplinary environmental issues with a focus on equity and justice. She takes a critical and social constructionist approach to knowledge, recognizing the importance of plural sets of knowledge and the degree to which all science is value-laden. Her work is often inspired by critical environmental justice, standpoint theory, intersectionality, and feminist political ecology; subjects that scholars and activists of colour have done much to establish and advance over the last several decades. She has spent several years working on community-based research around energy impacts, particularly in rural communities that often experience marginalization at the intersections of class, race and ethnicity. She recognizes that some iterations of her own research have failed in terms of (1) acknowledging and addressing power imbalances between herself and the researched communities and (2) centering communities in research leadership positions. With each new research effort she endeavours to do more to address these issues in order to build impactful research that can empower residents to take action and hold researchers accountable for their work.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Patrick Devine-Wright.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Devine-Wright, P., Ryder, S. Place-based reflexivity for just energy social science. Nat Energy 9, 1–5 (2024).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing Anthropocene

Sign up for the Nature Briefing: Anthropocene newsletter — what matters in anthropocene research, free to your inbox weekly.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing: Anthropocene