Developing socio-technical approach and methods in metrology

Developing socio-technical approach and methods in metrology
5th December 2016 Alison Parker

Domestic buildings


“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts” – Albert Einstein


A distinct methodological approach is being developed around the measurement of energy use in occupied buildings at the CEE. This approach privileges either the social or the physical, making it an opportunity for integrating different methods in our investigation of the multiple pathologies that are apparent.

Key findings

Data is a set of values of qualitative or quantitative variables (Wikipedia 2016). The common perception that epidemiology is all about big data has been constructively challenged by the work of the metrology group.

Impact, Influence & Outreach

The impact of the socio-technical approach has not only provided a platform for multi-disciplinary collaboration but also to support the development of innovative qualitative system dynamic modelling on topics involving energy and buildings, and energy efficiency systems, such as the relationships between heating, ventilation, and internal temperature.

More recent developments are taking place around the advancement of the Case Study Method. The contribution of this work can be seen in the context of the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) project. Publications from this project will be available early in 2017.One of the group’s earliest contributions was a working paper entitled:

How useful might evidence from Cochrane Reviews be for informing research in the area of Energy and Buildings? Chiu, L.F. & Lowe, R. (November, 2013)

This paper discussed the value of emulating the approach to systematic review espoused by Cochrane Review in relation to Health Epidemiology. A seminar on the working paper was offered to colleagues in the Institute January 2014. Below is an abstract of the working paper

Abstract: The success of establishing the first Centre of Energy Epidemiology in UCL Energy Institute has sparked much discussion and debate concerning the centre’s work and the definition of Energy Epidemiology. Many analogies have been drawn between the studies of energy epidemiology and health epidemiology. Much enthusiasm has been generated by a Cochrane Review of Housing Improvement and Health (Thomson et al., 2013). The implicit assumption is that systematic reviews such as that of Cochrane might be a model to which CEE should aspire and to adopt for improving research quality. This paper outlines concerns and implications for the uncritical appropriation for such an approach prematurely in building energy epidemiology. The discussion begins with a brief review of the purpose of the Cochrane Collaboration in the health research context, and how the approach has itself evolved to accommodate more diverse evidence. A short critical review of Thomson et. al’s review is then offered to guide reflection upon a range of issues pertinent to energy epidemiology research. In the final section of the paper, the implications of appropriating the Cochrane approach for assessing the strength of evidence of energy and buildings research are discussed.