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Behaviour and Practice Research Group

Due to the retirement of Professor Rettie, the head of the BPRG, the research group has now been disbanded. For enquiries about any of research projects listed below, please contact Tim Harries.


The Behaviour and Practice Research Group worked across a range of domains including energy consumption, healthy lifestyles and responses to flood risk. The group had five key objectives:

  1. To gain  interdisciplinary insights into the factors that shape behaviour and practice
  2. To develop and evaluate new interventions that employ these insights
  3. To investigate and develop the use of digital technologies in interventions
  4. To transfer insights across domain boundaries
    To produce findings of value to both academics and the users of research

The team

  • Professor Ruth Rettie – Director, Professor
  • Dr Tim Harries – Deputy Director, Senior Research Fellow
  • Dr Debra Riley – Research Associate
  • Kavita Patel – CHARM PhD Student
  • Dr Kevin Burchell – Visiting Fellow
  • Chris Barnham – Visiting Fellow
  • Chris Farrell- Associate Researcher


CHARM bActive study: using smart-phones based feedback to promote active lifestyles
Funded by the Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme, this study developed and evaluated a smartphone app that provided users with real-time, interactive, animated feedback on the number of steps they took in their everyday lives. The results of the randomised controlled trial show that use of the app increases walking by 64% amongst young men, Interviews and group discussions with participants point to the benefits of raising awareness of walking that is incidental to other activities. The 3-year study concluded in February 2013. Further details: CHARM website

Smart Communities: shaping new low carbon community norms and practices
Smart Communities, funded by the Research Councils UK Energy Programme, is a community action project with the objective of reducing energy consumption at home. The project emphasises: working together in cycles of action and reflection, collaboration with local institutions, employing practice theory as an intervention, energy monitoring and energy literacy, the development and adoption of new community norms, comparative energy consumption feedback, sharing experiences and knowhow.  Visit the Smart Communities website for further infomation

Sesame: promoting flood risk adaptation amongst small businesses
Following earlier research into adaptation to flood risk (including projects funded by Defra and the Royal Geographical Society), the group is now part of a 3-year collaborative EPSRC research programme to find ways of increasing the flood preparedness of small businesses. Working with the universities of Durham, Leeds, Sheffield and the West of England, we are seeking to understand the factors that lead small businesses to adapt to flood risk and to find ways of promoting better adaptation. Further details: SESAME website

CHARM Home Energy Study: using digital feedback to reduce domestic electricity consumption
Funded by the Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme, this study used digital technologies to provide households with feedback about their own electricity consumption and that of other local homes. The randomised controlled trial suggests that feedback showing households their own consumption is equally as effective as comparing households to each other. The 3-year study concluded in February 2013. Further details: CHARM website

Transforming Feedback
Funded by the EPSRC’s Sustainable Society Network+, this study is a collaboration with the Department of Electronics and Computer Science, Southampton University. The research explored whether interactive feedback visualisations could increase householders’ awareness of their electricity consumption patterns, change attitudes to consumption and stimulate more sustainable patterns of usage. The research report. 

Social normalisation and social marketing
Social normalisation refers to a process in which ideas, behaviours, products and practices that are initially considered to be exceptional or uncommon are gradually accepted as standard, normal and ordinary, and part of everyday life. Drawing on and developing a range of conceptual and practical insights, this project investigates the potential for social marketers and behaviour change practitioners to contribute to processes of social normalisation by positioning practices as what people normally do. This work is funded by Kingston University.

DIASMA: understanding and supporting diabetic self-management amongst adolescents
DIASMA, funded by the Southwest London Academic Network, explored the factors influencing the self-management of type-1 diabetes amongst teenagers and asked whether and how smart-phone applications can help them reduce long-term medical complications and live healthier, more fulfilled lives.

Department for Energy and Climate Change projects (DECC)
The group supported the social research company, GfK NOP, in the evaluation of DECC’s Low Carbon Community Challenge and in pre-testing for the Green Deal home and business energy efficiency programme.

Other projects

  • CHARM iGreen: EPSRC-funded PhD research that uses Facebook quizzes and games to promote environmentally sustainable domestic practices
  • Open TRV: Work with Damon Hart-Davis on a small-scale, in-home trial of new generation, occupancy sensing TRVs (thermostatic radiator valves) that schedule the heating of rooms according to learned occupancy patterns 
  • Heatviz: Qualitative research into the use of smart heating controls and the visualisation of room temperatures, heat loss and the energy used to heat unoccupied rooms.



Associate Dean for Research
Prof Robert Blackburn

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