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Dr. John Whitton

Director, UCLan Energy

School of Engineering

Kirkham Building, KM003

+44 (0) 1772 89 4211

John is research active within the area of energy and power management and is a member of the Centre for Energy and Power Management.

Full Profile

Following a career in the energy industry, John joined the UCLan Energy Centre in January 2012 to manage the BAE Systems / UCLan Strategic Partnership on energy, and those with other industrial partners such as National Nuclear laboratory. Following this John formed UCLan Energy in 2014, a multi-disciplinary, cross university entity that boasts a range of undergraduate and postgraduate energy courses, from Renewable Energy Engineering to Energy Law, Energy and Environmental Management, and Energy and Sustainability. UCLan Energy research reflects our multi-disciplinary approach between the natural, engineering and social sciences and our links to employers such as the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL). 

John leads the UCLan Energy and Society Research Group that was recently successful in receiving a Horizon 2020 research grant in the “History of Nuclear Energy and Society”, led by Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona with academic partners from across the EU. He leads the social science work packages with his Spanish counterpart. UCLan Energy has several UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Industrial Cooperative Awards in Science & Technology (CASE) and John is Director of Studies for three of these. These awards provide funding for PhD studentships where businesses take the lead in arranging projects with an academic partner of their choice for PhD research. 

John works extensively with communities, carrying out social research on energy demand behaviour and the relationship between people and energy infrastructure and also as a Director of Local Trust. Local Trust is overseer of the £220m, 15 year resident-led community regeneration programme, Big Local. 


Whitton, J., Parry, I., Grundy, C., Lillycrop, A. and Ross, D., (2016). A Review of the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) Dialogue Pilot (2015) for New Nuclear Build in the UK: Lessons for Engagement Theory and Practice. Journal of Radiological Protection 36 (2): pp 23 - 44

Whitton, John, Parry, Ioan Mihangel, Akiyoshi, Mito and Lawless, William (2015) Conceptualizing a Social Sustainability Framework for Energy Infrastructure Decisions. Energy Research & Social Science, 8 . pp. 127-138

Whitton, John, Parry, Ioan Mihangel and Howe, Joseph Mark (2014) Social Sustainability: Participant-led Dialogue as a Basis for the Development of a Conceptual Framework for Energy Infrastructure Decisions. The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice, 9 (3). pp. 1-13.

Lawless, William, Akiyoshi, Mito, Fjorentina, Angjellari-Dajci and Whitton, John (2014) Public Consent for the Geological Disposal of Highly Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 1 (1). pp. 41-62.

More publications


PhD - Participant Perceptions on the Nature of Stakeholder Dialogue Carried Out by the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), University of Manchester. 2010.

MSc Geotechnical Engineering, University Of Glasgow. 1997.

B.Sc(Hons), Earth Science (Environmental Science / Geology), Liverpool John Moores University. 1994.


Graduate Information Systems Programme (Business Management), University of Liverpool & Merseyside Innovation Centre. 1994.


Full Member of the Institution of Environmental Sciences

European Geologist, European Federation of Geologists Chartered Scientist, Science Council (C.Sci. A). 2004.

Chartered Fellow of the Geological Society of London (C.Geol. FGS). 2002

Full Profile


2015: Histories of Nuclear Energy and Society (HoNESt), Horizon 2020/Euratom Nuclear Fission Research Program, led by Dr Albert Presas i Puig, Universitat Pompeu Fabra – €3,052,269 (Co-Investigator, October 2015-September 2018)

2013: Manufacturing and Process Skills for the Future Group - Future Skills Requirements for the Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Sectors on the Fylde.


Social Sustainability Research
Understanding the meaning and role of sustainability within a social context is one of the key challenges currently facing society. From energy distribution, prioritisation and even rationing, how does the meaning of sustainability translate when applied within communities and to decision making within this context? Here, sustainability takes on a different meaning; social justice and ethics, notions of equity and fairness, access to facilities and services – most importantly, the perception of all of these by those to which it applies.

Previous research (Whitton, 2011 and 2010) considers various elements of social sustainability such as convened dialogue, its role within decision making and the perception of those to which it applies. The work used a three year stakeholder dialogue process on nuclear decommissioning in the UK to reflect on the validity, fairness and stakeholders perception of the dialogue process. The action orientated research concluded that if a process such as this is to be successful, the principles that underlie the process must be genuine and institutionalized within the convening organization. In other words, the dialogue becomes sustainable.

This work has led to research with communities in Cheshire on social sustainability within neighbourhoods, what this means in practice and how it can be achieved to deliver sustainable neighbourhoods. The focus of the work is the role of social sustainability within decision making and to derive a theory of social sustainability that addresses the issue of comparability and incomparable values during the decision making process.

EPSRC Case Studentships
Research will also take place from mid 2012 with our industrial partners regarding the societal and social sustainability aspects of energy generation, supply and demand. This will be carried out as two EPSRC Case Studentships, which I will supervise.

The first studentship is with BAE Systems and concerns recent developments in ‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’ technology that will allow organisations or communities to be optimised; that is to direct energy to those areas of the network that take priority over others when demand is high or energy supply is compromised. How is a ‘fair’ system of energy distribution ensured to enable this optimisation of energy to take place without users feeling that other users have an unfair advantage? The research will present these questions in a clearly defined epistemological framework that focuses on the interface between technology and human behaviour / perception.

The second studentship is with the National Nuclear Laboratory. The overarching aim of the research is to investigate a method for incorporating social ‘sustainability data’ when using strategic decision making models at industry and national policy level. Current decision making models are unable to effectively assess the societal impacts of nuclear technical programmes or strategically important decisions due to an absence of reliable data. This research will aim to address this problem by investigating stakeholder preferences and a potential role for existing social indicator data.

PhD Students

2015: Assessing homeowners' attitudes towards reducing energy consumptions.

2012: EPSRC CASE Award with BAE SYSTEMS: Private Carbon Governance Initiatives to Encourage Climate Change Mitigation via the Defence Sector . (Complete 2017)

2012: EPSRC CASE Award with National Nuclear Laboratory: Strategic Decision Making for a Sustainable Nuclear Fuel Cycle. (Complete 2015)

2012: EPSRC CASE Award with BAE SYSTEMS Human Science Aspects of Intelligent Energy Management Systems. (Complete 2015) 

Other Roles

2015 – Present: Advisory Group member, School for Public Health Research (SPHR) Health Inequalities Programme, Communities in Control Project.
2014: Advisory Group member, NCVO Early Years Evaluation of Big Local Trust.
2012 – Present: Trustee/Director, Local Trust.