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Selecting Research Topics


Criteria for question selection

Prospective questions are open to input from stakeholders, through both workshops and ad-hoc engagement. The TPA management team and UKERC Research Director, in consultation with the TPA Advisory Group, select questions according to the following criteria:

  • Does the question reflect the concerns of users?
  • Is the question relevant to current energy policy debate and/or the objectives of the UKERC and UK energy policy?
  • Are there important areas of conflict or confusion that a TPA assessment could help overcome?
  • Can the question be made sufficiently concise as to allow it to be addressed within the timeframe and resource limits of the TPA?
  • Is the question amenable to a synthesis assessment based on existing evidence? For example, is the question sufficiently tightly defined? Is an adequate evidence base both available and accessible?

Topics need to be addressed in the form of a detailed question that strikes a balance between feasibility and policy impact. An overly ‘narrow’ question may not capture the interest of stakeholders, while an overly ‘wide’ question may prove impossible to address with the level of resources available to the TPA team, or ill-suited to the rigorous approach that the team seek to apply.

To assist in the selection process, topics were scored against the criteria described above, together with brief notes to justify each score. As an illustrative example, the scores attributed to the Intermittency topic (the first TPA project that was completed) are shown below.

Intermittency topic scores against criteria

Criteria

Score

Notes

Does the question reflect the concerns of users?

5

All policymakers interviewed for the user needs assessment agreed on the importance of this topic

Is the question relevant to current energy policy debate?

5

Highly relevant to policy choices about renewables support, investment in conventional plant and to decisions about infrastructure

Are there important areas of conflict or confusion that a review could help to resolve?

5

There is considerable and ongoing controversy on this topic

Can the question be made sufficiently concise as to allow it to be addressed within the timeframe and resource limits?

4

Given careful specification or with supplemental funding

Is an adequate evidence base both available and accessible?

5

The engineering and economics have been studied extensively

Can it provide a ‘big hit’?

4

Likely to create considerable interest

Overall (out of possible 30)

28

 

Note: 5= Very good; 1 = Very poor