Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

Making an Impact! Increasing the relevance of research through science-society interaction

Date: 11 February 2021 - 12 February 2021
Location: Wageningen Campus


Researchers experience a pressing demand from society to create solutions for a range of urgent problems. In the domain of life sciences such demands relate to climate change, food security, healthy diets, sustainable agriculture, ecological resilience and nature conservation. These demands come forward most concretely in requirements for research funding to stipulate the societal relevance of your proposed study. Some funding schemes demand precise ‘impact pathways’ that spell out how each of the envisioned research results lead to specific benefits for society. Overall, research is expected to develop innovations that contribute to sustainability as well as economic growth. For PhD candidates such expectations can provide motivation as well as worries or even frustration.

This course offers different perspectives on understanding, anticipating and making impact. You will discover how fundamental research can be combined with societal impact. You will have the opportunity to reflect on the impact of your own work, learn from other PhD candidates and other researchers working at the interface of research, policy and society.


In the course, you will learn about perspectives on and activities for science-society interaction. You will develop ideas and activities to increase the societal relevance of your research, and how these can be balanced with other commitments and priorities in your PhD programme. Without ignoring common media tools for reaching an audience, the main focus in this course is

on activities to collaborate with professional groups, citizens and other stakeholders[1]. In a panel discussion, experienced researchers will provide examples of their own experiences, and describe how the quality of the research ultimately benefited from impact activities as well.

The course builds on a transdisciplinary understanding of making impact, and how this relates to general goals, for example sustainability, and how to build critical relations between science and society, research and practice. The course introduces PhD-candidates to the philosophy and practice of integrative knowledge development. The course will thus enable participants to understand the rationale of collaboration with practitioners and policymakers.

Moreover, you will develop the necessary skills for identifying stakeholders’ needs, building relations, organising a dialogue and integrating research in a wider process of change, while practising with some relevant techniques.

Finally, you will explore your personal wishes and develop ideas about how to integrate impact activities in your research. Via intensive exchange with the other course members, you will elaborate a good plan for your own PhD-project, ready to be presented to your supervisors after the course.

Learning goals

After this course, the participants will be able to:

  • Describe ways of enhancing societal impact in diverse research phases and in relation to societal change processes
  • Apply a selection of tools for diagnosis and for science-society collaboration 
  • Recognize common hindrances and dilemmas for making impact 
  • Evaluate the role and importance of impact activities in their own research 
  • Undertake impact activities in their own research

Set-up and activities

In an interactive learning programme, you will be actively engaged during the two course days, included the evening of the first day. In preparation to the course, you will be asked to do a small assignment in the weeks before the course.

General information

Target groupPhD candidates who are interested in exploring the possibilities to enhance the societal relevance of their research. We welcome students from all disciplines, and in all phases of their study.
Intended credits1 ECTS
Course organisationWageningen Institute for Environment and Climate Research in cooperation with Wageningen Graduate Schools 
More informationCourse website

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