Das, Runa

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Dr. Runa Das is an associate professor and core faculty member in the Doctor of Social Sciences Program. Her work is motivated by real world issues such as climate change and sustainability. In particular, her interdisciplinary research explores the assessment and practice of environmental and social sustainability with a specific focus on energy-related issues. She examines the human dimensions and determinants of energy use, energy literacy, environmental and energy justice and pro-environmental behaviour change. She asks questions like: Why do we use energy the way we do? Does knowing more about the production and distribution of energy change how we use it? Is there fair and equal access to energy in society? And how can we best encourage pro-environmental behaviour change? As a quantitative methodologist, Runa is passionate about teaching social statistics and research design.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 7
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    Investigating energy justice in demand-side low-carbon innovations in Ontario
    (Frontiers Media, 2021-08-12) Wyse, Susan, M.; Das, Runa; Hoicka, Christina E.; Zhao, Yuxu; McMaster, Maria-Louise
    The diffusion of low-carbon innovations, including innovative products and services, is required to accelerate a low-carbon energy transition. These innovations also have the potential to alleviate and perpetuate existing social inequities, calling into question their “justness.” Energy justice is a useful analytical tool for framing justice questions related to energy. In this paper, we ask whether demand-side low-carbon energy innovations are meeting energy justice criteria. To address this question, this study develops four indicators from existing energy justice frameworks and applies them to a range of demand-side innovations offered to energy users in Ontario. The indicators are used to assess innovation availability, affordability, information, and involvement. Innovations were identified using surveys and desk research across Ontario's energy technology innovation system (ETIS). One hundred twenty-two innovations are analyzed for these four indicators, and according to intended innovation users and innovation providers. Findings suggest that three of the four indicators—availability, affordability and information are broadly being addressed, while involvement was more difficult to establish. However, the ETIS may be perpetuating inequities through an over emphasis of innovations for particular energy users, such as private businesses, alongside under-emphasis on potentially marginalized actors, such as low-income households and renters. Furthermore, government-delivered, publicly owned or regulated innovation providers place a greater emphasis on energy justice, including the provision of innovations for marginalized actors. This study aids our understanding of energy justice in low-carbon energy innovations and is critical given that in the context of funding cuts to public services, there may be an increased reliance on decentralized actors. The consideration of justice gaps that emerge through such decentralization should not be overlooked. Our findings suggest that within Ontario's ETIS, who provides innovations matters. Given the insights presented in this study, this research approach and the developed indicators could be applied to other contexts and socio-technical systems. The application of energy justice indicators, derived from existing scholarship, therefore presents an important opportunity to address current and understudied practical energy challenges.
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    Methodology to identify demand-side low-carbon innovations and their potential impact on socio-technical energy systems
    (MethodsX, 2021) Hoicka, Christina E.; Das, Runa; Zhao, Yuxu; McMaster, Maria-Louise; Lieu, Jenny; Wyse, Susan
    The rapid diffusion of demand-side low-carbon innovations has been identified as a key strategy for maintaining average global temperature rise at or below 1.5 °C. Diffusion research tends to focus on a single sector, or single technology case study, and on a small scope of factors that influence innovation diffusion. This paper describes a novel methodology for identifying multiple demand-side innovations within a specific energy system context and for characterizing their impact on socio-technical energy systems. This research employs several theoretical frameworks that include the Energy Technology Innovation System (ETIS) framework to develop a sample of innovations; the Sustainability Transitions framework to code innovations for their potential to impact the socio-technical system; the energy justice framework to identify the potential of innovations to address aspects of justice; and how characteristics of innovations are relevant to Innovation Adoption. This coding and conceptualization creates the foundation for the future development of quantitative models to empirically assess and quantify the rate of low-carbon innovation diffusion as well as understanding the broader relationship between the diffusion of innovations and socio-technical system change. The three stages of research are: •Contextualization: surveys and desk research to identify low-carbon innovations across the ETIS; •Decontextualization: the development of a codebook of variables •Recontextualization: coding the innovations and analysis.
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    Canada's Green New Deal: Forging the socio-political foundations of climate resilient infrastructure?
    (Energy Research & Social Science, 2020) MacArthur, Julie L.; Hoicka, Christina E.; Castleden, Heather; Das, Runa; Lieu, Jenny
    A global movement is underway to harness the power of coordinated state policy to address the significant and interrelated challenges of environmental degradation, climate change, poverty, and energy insecurity. In May 2019 a grassroots coalition comprising a range of civil society groups—scientists, labour unions, Indigenous peoples, and youth—launched the Pact for a Green New Deal (PGND) in Canada, with more than 150 town hall meetings across the country. Participants called for 100% renewable energy, phase out of the oil sands, a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030, and the creation of 1 million new green jobs and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples [1]. A significant reorientation to the scale and direction of government expenditure, as happened in the American New Deal of the 1930s, can spur technical innovation but can also exacerbate inequalities. A Canadian green transition is significant globally given its high energy production, exports, and internal use. In this perspective piece we examine the transformative potential of a Canadian PGND by focusing on the social and political characteristics of energy infrastructure: the potential for 100% renewable energy, transitions for oil sands, energy democracy, Indigenous energy leadership, gender equity, and energy poverty. The actor coalitions emerging from these then forge specific energy transition pathways, whether just and inclusive, or not. The Canadian case highlights the complexities and opportunities that accompany countries with large geographies, fraught geo-political histories, strong federalism, inequalities of access to clean affordable energy, and an abundance of renewable energy.
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    Negative numbers in simple arithmetic
    (Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2010) Das, Runa; LeFevre, Jo-Anne; Penner-Wilger, Marcie
    Are negative numbers processed differently than positive numbers in arithmetic problems? In two experiments, adults (N = 66) solved standard addition and subtraction problems such as 3 + 4 and 7 – 4 and recasted versions that included explicit negative signs, that is, 3 – (-4), 7 + (-4), and (-4) + 7. Solution times on the recasted problems were slower than on standard problems, but the effect was much larger for addition than subtraction. The negative sign may prime subtraction in both kinds of recasted problems. Problem size effects were the same or smaller in recasted as compared to standard problems, suggesting that the recasted formats did not interfere with mental calculation. These results suggest that the underlying conceptual structure of the problem (i.e., addition vs. subtraction) is more important for solution processes than the presence of negative numbers.