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‘Telling tales’: Communicating UK energy research through fairy tale characters

24 June, 2023

‘Telling tales’: Communicating UK energy research through fairy tale characters

Carolynne Lord

Research paper   Flexibility

Carolynne Lord, Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs and Torik Holmes


Storytelling is gaining traction in the field of energy and social science research. It supports collective agenda setting, embraces complexity, and represents one way to tackle the ‘wicked problems’ of climate change. It is particularly important given the commonly opaque nature of social science outputs, and the urgency in which responses to climate change are now required. Responding to these challenges and recognising the value of storytelling, we present three ‘telling tales’ in this paper. Each takes inspiration from a well-known fairy tale character (i.e., mermaids, vampires, and witches) to translate energy and social science research in the empirical contexts of electricity generation, sustainable travel, and plastic pollution in the UK. We draw on these fairy tale characters as a part of arguing that UK policy reflects a fixation with renewables, excessive caution concerning car ownership and use, and a reductive approach to plastics. In response, we consider some alternative approaches, each aimed at delivering transformational adaptation, premised on demand reduction. We aim, more broadly, to inspire others to tell their own convincing tales to communicate research findings beyond academic circles and to help bring about change.

Publication details

Lord, C., Ellsworth-Krebs, K. and Holmes, T. 2023. ‘Telling tales’: Communicating UK energy research through fairy tale characters. Energy Research & Social Science, 101: 103100. doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2023.103100Opens in a new tabOpen access

Banner photo credit: Alireza Attari on Unsplash