Making an Impact! How to increase the societal relevance of your PhD research

Course schedule

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Course description


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 and environmental impact in 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 of transdisciplinary research
  • Evaluate the role and importance of transdisciplinarity 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: none
Name lecturer: Barbara van Mierlo, Cees Leeuwis, Phil MacNaghten
Venue: Congrescentrum De Werelt, Lunteren
Flyer: Flyer Making an Impact October 2017
Poster: Poster Making an Impact October 2017


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

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


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.


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