SUSSTAIN: Sustainability Utilizing Social Science Theory: An Interdisciplinary Network

We are an interdisciplinary, multi-institution network with diverse analytic skills. Researchers in our current network include specialists in the social sciences, law, policy and business from Columbia, Vanderbilt, Washington State and Clemson Universities, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


SUSSTAIN seeks to demonstrate how insights from the behavioral and social sciences can be put to work on energy consumption challenges in  real-world applications and to disseminate that learning and experience into the research, policy, and business communities in order to facilitate progress toward energy efficiency. Ultimately our policy objectives coalesce around climate change.


SUSSTAIN was founded by Elke Weber and Ruth Greenspan Bell in 2011. NSF provided core funding for SUSSTAIN, recognizing that the successful adoption of new energy technologies has a large human component beyond mere installation of physical equipment. We will continue to expand our scope through partnerships, contributing our vision, scholarly leadership, unique policy outreach capabilities, and strong project management.

Current Projects

To date we have assembled an analytic network, established partnerships with Avista, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, and the Department of Defense. Our progress has largely featured the initiation of demonstration projects in the domains of energy efficiency and infrastructure. We have multiple SUSSTAIN-assisted research projects underway at partner institutions including Washington State University, Vanderbilt University, and Clemson University. These projects include historical analysis papers, lab experiments, and online survey-based research.

Produced in collaboration with the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. For release in Fall 2014

Smart Grid Project(s)
I. Information Presentation Project
Principal Investigators: Craig Parks, Washington State University; Amanda Carrico, Vanderbilt University
II. Smart Grid Energy Technology Knowledge Project
Principal Investigator: Kaitlin Toner, Vanderbilt University
III. Two additional publication projects

Infrastructure Projects
I. Choice architecture to guide infrastructure development decisions that impact energy
Principal Investigator(s): Leidy Klotz, with collaborators Elke Weber, Eric Johnson, and Ruth Bell
II. Envision as choice architecture tool
Principal Investigator(s): Leidy Klotz, Tripp Shealy, Clemson University
III. An additional publication project

Who We Are

SUSSTAIN’s core team is based at Columbia University and the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. Our larger network includes scholars and business leaders that are currently active on SUSSTAIN-related demonstration projects as well as a Steering Committee that combines academic, NGO and business guidance. For more information, see our Who We Are page.