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

Course schedule

Dates Start time End time Location Coordinator    
5-6 February 2019 09:30 Wageningen Campus Peter Vermeulen Registration ended at 02/02/2019

Course description


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.


[1] PhD candidates interested in science communication through mass media are referred to the PhD course “Communication with the Media and the General Public”.

Course set-up

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.

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

General Information

Target Group: PhD 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.
Group size: Max. 24  participants
Course duration: 2 days (including evening of the first course day)
Language: English
Credit points: 1 ECTS
Self-study hours: small assignment finished before start of the course, approx. 4 hours
Name lecturer:


Harro Maat, Cees Leeuwis, Phil MacNaghten

Venue: Wageningen Campus; rooms t.b.a.


In an interactive learning programme with 24 PhD-candidates, you will be actively engaged during the two full days, first evening included.

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


Day 1

Day 2


Day 1: 9.30 – 12.30

Day 2: 9.00 – 12.30

  • Introduction to the course
  • Serious game and reflection on collaboration processes
  • Short lecture by Harro Maat on research in interaction with society, with emphasis on Wageningen UR
  • Reflection and exploration of personal desires for making an impact with PhD-research
  • Exchange of personal ideas in small groups
  • Reflection on day 1
  • Short lecture by Phil Macnaghten on the art of organising a societal dialogue
  • Short instruction
  • Practicing with designing and facilitating societal dialogues in two sub-groups: Phil Macnaghten and Harro Maat



Day 1: 13.30 – 17.30

Day 2: 13.30 – 17.00

  • Short lecture by Cees Leeuwis about the role of research and knowledge in complex change processes
  • Practicing with diagnostic tools: stakeholders and problem causes. In two sub-groups in two rounds: Cees Leeuwis and Harro Maat
  • Exploration and definition of topics and questions for the panel discussion
  • Develop ideas for impact activities ideas into a personal PhD plan
  • Prepare a poster and pitch
  • Pitches and feedback by other participants and teachers
  • Plenary wrapping up



19.30 – 21.00

  • Panel of young and senior researchers about their experiences with making an impact, with invited WUR researchers



1) Reduced fee:
  • PhD candidates of Wageningen University with an approved Training and Supervision Plan (TSP) who are registered at one of the WU graduate schools (EPS, PE&RC, VLAG, WASS, WIAS, WIMEK/SENSE)
  • Postdocs of Wageningen University who are registered at one of the WU graduate schools
  • PhD candidates of the national graduate school SENSE with an approved Education Plan (TSP)
€ 200,-
2) University fee: All other PhD candidates / Wageningen University post-docs and staff € 400,-
3) External: All other participants € 800,-

Fee includes study and training material, accommodation, food and drinks.

Cancellation condition

You may cancel free of charge up to four weeks before the start of the course. After this date you will be charged the University fee. 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 (PhDs and postdocs of Wageningen University) 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.


For more information please contact