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! How to increase the societal relevance of your PhD research

Date: 16 October 2017 - 17 October 2017
Location: Congrescentrum De Werelt, Lunteren



With the pressing global challenges of climate change, food security and natural resource pollution and depletion, the need for societally relevant research is higher than ever. The societal relevance of sustainability research has become a crucial aspect in the evaluation of research proposals, while demonstrating the societal impact of research has become a core element in the assessment of research results. For these reasons, many PhD-candidates working on sustainability issues are motivated to ensure that their research has an impact.

Engaging with societally relevant activities is quite a challenge, requiring a suite of skills. In this intensive, interactive course, you will discover ways to combine fundamental research with societal impact activities. You will benefit both personally and socially, gaining valuable experience at the interface of research, policy and society, highly relevant for your future career.


In the course, you will learn about activities to increase the societal relevance of your research, and how these can be balanced with other commitments and priorities in your PhD-programme. This course focuses predominantly on less well-known activities to collaborate with professional groups, citizens and other stakeholders. 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.
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 are 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 an 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 with 24 PhD-candidates maximum, you will be actively engaged during the two course days, included the evening of the first day. In order to enable intensive interaction and team building, the course take place outside the office space of the university. In advance of the course, you will be asked to do a small preparatory assignment.

Activities of the course include:

  • A small preparatory assignment
  • Lectures by the teachers
  • Experimenting with practical techniques in small groups
  • Exploration of desires and ideas on integration of transdisciplinarity in personal PhD plan
  • Presentation of posters and feedback by the other participants

If there is sufficient interest, participants will be offered the option of a follow-up of the course in the peer consultation group.

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
Lecturer(s)•  Dr. Barbara van Mierlo
•  Prof. Cees Leeuwis
•  Prof. Phil MacNaghten
Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group, Wageningen University
More informationMonique Gulickx
tel: +31 (0) 317 484836
RegistrationPre-registration form
Registration deadline   t.b.d.
FlyerFlyer Making an Impact October 2017 (pdf)
PosterPoster Making an Impact October 2017 (pdf)

Course fee and cancellation conditions

Course feeEarly bird Fee *Normal Fee *
• SENSE PhD candidates with an approved Education Plan (TSP)
• PhD candidates of Wageningen University with an approved TSP, who are registered at one of the WU graduate schools
• Postdocs of Wageningen University who are registered at one of the WU graduate schools
€ 200€ 225
Other PhD candidates / students€ 400€ 450

* Accommodation, food and drinks included.

Cancellation conditionsUp to 4 (four) weeks prior to the start of the course, cancellation is free of charge.
After this date you will be charged the full fee of € 450.  Unless:
  • You can find someone to replace you in the course and supply the course coordinator with the name and contact information of your replacement. In this case you will only be charged a € 50,- cancellation fee.
  • You are a SENSE, PE&RC and WASS PhD candidate with an approved TSP and have a valid reason to cancel (illness or death in the family 1st or 2nd degree). In this case you will be charged the reduced fee and your supervisor/PI must send a mail indicating the reason for cancellation.

Former occurrences of this course