Dr Christina Demski
My research interests can broadly be described as examining issues within risk perception and communication, and examining public responses to emerging and complex socio-technical issues. I have particular expertise in public attitudes and acceptability towards environmental and energy issues (e.g. climate change, energy security, renewable energy). This work is shaped by a strong interdisciplinary perspective using mixed-method research, although I have particular expertise in quantitative survey methods.
I am currently working on a project examining public values, attitudes and acceptability of whole energy system transformations, including framing and decision- making with regards to energy futures. Furthermore, I am particularly interested in public perceptions of energy security as a risk and framing issue. I am also a co-investigator on a project examining public perceptions of climate change in the aftermath of the 2013/2014 UK flooding.
Year 1 (Level 4/5): I act as tutor to Year 1 students including personal and academic tutorials, which includes marking of practicals and essays associated with Year 1 modules.
Year 2 (Level 5): Social Psychology lectures on Social Cognition; Social Psychology practicals (PS2007); personal and academic tutorials and associated Year 2 coursework.
Year 3/4 (level 6): I supervise research projects spanning environmental and social psychology, and risk perception.
Postgraduate: I provide ad-hoc teaching for the Postgraduate Research Design and Statistics module for research students. These lectures cover philosophical and analytical issues in psychological research, with a specific focus on mixed-method research. I also act as pathway convenor for psychology with regards to the MSc/Diploma in Social Science Research Methods course.
Selected publications (2014 onwards)
Full list of publications
We generally launch research reports associated with our major projects at events aimed at stakeholders and the media. Here is some recent coverage:
Public perception of demand-side management
Our latest paper in Nature Climate Change on Public Perceptions of Demand Side Management (DSM) received some great coverage, e.g. articles in the Guardian, the New Scientist and The Sunday Telegraph.
An interesting aspect of this analysis revealed that people with affordability concerns about energy are less likely to accept demand-side management measures, and this is partly explained by a lower willingness to share their energy data. We will be following this up in our new project examining public perceptions of energy costs and related issues (e.g. fairness, trust).
Perceptions of Climate Change after the 2013/2014 Floods
We launched some of our latest survey findings at the Royal Society on 29th January 2015, which was well received by an audience of academics, policy makers and NGOs and resulted in lively discussions.
In association with the launch of this report we also received some good press coverage - see for example the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent.
In this research we find that public belief in climate change has increased since our last surveys and is at its highest in 10 years according to our tracker questions. Most people seem to be linking the extreme floods in late 2013 and early 2014 to climate change and think that these are a sign of things to come. To some extent, the ‘psychological distance’ associated with climate change seems to be reduced for those with direct flooding experience. Those with flooding experiences see climate change as more personally relevant compared to a national sample.
Research topics and related papers
Transforming the UK Energy System: Public Values, Attitudes, and Acceptability
My current work investigates public values, attitudes and acceptability with regards to transitioning to a low carbon energy system funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (NERC). The project involves an interdisciplinary team across three major work packages including stakeholder interviews, public deliberative workshops, and a national survey – the latter being the particular focus of my research. This large nationally-representative survey used an innovative design and an energy futures scenario-building tool (“My2050”) to engage publics with this complex topic. In addition, I played a key part in an extensive synthesis analysis across the different research phases, examining public values for energy system change and energy futures.
Overall, the project stipulates that the processes involved in energy system change (driven by needs to address climate change, energy security, affordability, and infrastructure renewal) entail considerable uncertainties. One aspect of change about which there are wide-ranging uncertainties is that of public attitudes and acceptability - of critical importance with the potential to present both opportunities and challenges for the delivery of energy policy and change across multiple areas. For example, considering public values can improve decision, can avoid views becoming entrenched, and potentially helps to improve dialogue and identify points of significant future conflict.
The core conclusion from the research is that the British public wants and expects change with regard to how energy is supplied, used and governed. Members of the public are positive about the need for energy system change. Within this, the research has illuminated a wide range of novel insights on public attitudes regarding: energy policy drivers; elements of energy system change; and the underlying values and principles that people draw on when engaging with this issue.
This project has produced a number of reports, and the findings were launched at the Royal Society in London in July 2013. I am interested in continuing this research particularly by examining perceptions of energy security issues, energy system actors, and energy system governance.
Public perception of climate change in the aftermath of the 2013/2014 flooding
This project considers the role of extreme weather as a critical influence on people's understanding of climate change. Although a number of studies have looked at how wider meteorological conditions (e.g. day-to-day temperature) can affect people's views on climate change, there is little research that examines the role of extraordinary or extreme weather events in affecting public opinion. We are interested in this topic because there is reason to believe that extreme weather events may have a particularly pronounced effect on people's attitudes. We also see this focus as relevant because climate change is itself predicted to lead to more frequent and severe extreme weather around the world, including increased incidence of floods across the UK.
Our research is designed to examine people's perceptions of climate change shortly after the occurrence of major national flooding in parts of the UK in early 2014. We are carrying out a large survey across Great Britain through which we can measure people's views about the flooding and about climate change, and how these are connected.
PhD Thesis – Public perceptions of renewable energy technologies: Questioning the notion of widespread support.
My thesis investigated public perception of renewable energy technologies in the context of climate change and energy security using a mixed-method approach drawing on both psychological theories (e.g. attitude-behaviour theories), and more constructivist approaches in the field of socio-technological transitions. In this research I focused particularly on the conditional nature of support associated with renewable energy in general, and wind farms in particular.
EPSRC/UK Energy Research Centre (£279,988): Energy, the economy and society: Societal preferences, affordability and trust (Co-Investigator with Nick Pidgeon). Awarded 1 May 2014.
Economic and Social Research Council
Public perceptions of climate change in the immediate aftermath of major national flooding.
June 2014 - May 2015
Co-funding for the above was received from Sustainable Places Research Institute (£30,000) and Climate Change Consortium of Wales (£30,000).
PhD (2008-2011): Leverhulme Trust
Postgraduate Researcher Initiatives Grant (2009), Cardiff University Doctoral Academy (with Simon Williams, Social Sciences): Public Perception of Science, Technology and Risk.
I am part of the Understanding Risk Research Group which carries out interdisciplinary and multi-method research. The group has members across departments within Cardiff University and collaborates with a number of other institutions including Nottingham University, Sheffield University and the University of East Anglia.
2005-2008: BSc Psychology, Cardiff University, UK. First Class Honours.
2008-2011: PhD in Environmental Psychology, Cardiff University, UK. (Funding through the Leverhulme Trust)
2013-present: Lecturer, School of Psychology, Cardiff University.
2011-2013: Research Associate, Understanding Risk Research Group, Cardiff University, UK. Project: Transforming the UK energy system: Public values, attitudes and acceptability (NERC/UKERC).
Aug-Dec 2010: Consultant on Research Synthesis for RCUK: Public Attitudes to and Engagement with Low-Carbon Energy.
2008-2011: Postgraduate Tutor, School of Psychology, Cardiff University.