Net Zero Policy Programme – Terms of Reference for Discussion Papers

The British Academy is building up its Net Zero Policy Programme to use the SHAPE disciplines (social sciences, humanities and arts for people and the economy) to address the question: how well do net zero policies address the challenges facing the economy and society in the UK? In doing so we aim to contribute to policy outcomes that deliver on commitments to net zero in the UK.

We are requesting short, robust and well-referenced papers that can provide further evidence to the programme base.

For full information, please download the terms of reference document.


The initial work in this programme has provided use with framing to base the rest of the programme. It has considered how collaboration across sectors (public, third sector, business, schools and local communities) can foster shared commitments to goals, values and programmes to deliver net zero as part of a sustainable future. The research projects and our own policy work have used a wide range of methods and explored diverse people and places. The emerging insights emphasise three areas for further consideration for policy development:

  • How should policy making effectively balance the range of impacts resulting from net zero policies on various communities of interest over different timescales?
  • How can policy interventions take account of the diverse contextual factors within places which motivate people and organisations to support or oppose net zero objectives?
  • How do different types of policy support enable people and institutions at different levels of society and across different dimensions of scale accelerate the transition to net zero?

Alongside these, the initial research indicated a range of cross-cutting elements: the importance of place; the relationships between people, communities, institutions, and different modes of governance particularly at the local scale; the coordination of connections between different levels of governance; the methods of engagement and communication between various groups of people and policymakers; the questions of social inclusion and widening values; the diverse economic and financial considerations; and the types of skills and knowledge needed.

Further details, including the research projects’ policy summaries and policy roundtable summaries can be found on this web page.


Having established a set of areas of interest and framing for the programme (as above), we are seeking contributions that will add depth, context and practical elements to the evidence base. The objectives of the discussion papers are, therefore, to:

  • Provide practical evidence from SHAPE disciplines around the framing proposed (the three areas for further consideration, and the cross-cutting elements as set out above).
  • Reflect on this framing in the context of the relationships between institutions at different levels of governance, in particular at local authority level and in business.
  • Prompt engagement and debate among policy audiences, by posing challenging questions highlighting gaps and opportunities for policy where the evidence points to these (noting that these are not opinion-pieces but should include useful conclusions building on the evidence referred to).


Reflecting the objectives listed above, the expected deliverable is a short, robust, evidence-based, well-referenced and balanced discussion paper that responds to the framing and objectives, and addresses the audience identified above. They should also be evidence-based and meet usual academic standards. All papers will be subject to peer review which will be facilitated by the Academy.

For clarity, the expectation is that this work will be based on existing knowledge, research, and analysis on these topics rather than involving new field / research. Authors can draw on their existing published material as well as a wider evidence base, but the paper should be an original work that has not been published elsewhere already.

As highlighted above, these are not opinion-pieces, but should include useful conclusions and where appropriate, proposals, areas for further discussion, or gaps and opportunities for consideration.

Following the peer review, the paper will be published in the author’s name, by the British Academy.

To respond, please submit a proposal (comprising a brief CV, a short outline or abstract that describes the paper you would like to contribute to this series and the date you will submit the finished paper).  These should be sent to Chizitera Pennington by email ([email protected]).

This is a paid commission with fixed terms. The fee paid for each paper will be £4,000.  Payment will be made in two tranches, with 50% upon signature of the contract and 50% on completion.

Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis. However, we will stop accepting proposals once the budget for this series has been allocated tosubmissions.

For more information, please download the terms of reference document here.

We are running a webinar on 19 January from 11:00-11:45am to address any questions and provide further information on the calls.

Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 883 5111 1058

Passcode: Y5pEdF

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