PS9001 Critical Engagements: Social Sciences in a Changing Society Course description

Course name in Norwegian
Critical Engagements: Social Sciences in a Changing Society
Study programme
Ph.d.-program i samfunnsvitenskap
Year of study
FALL 2024
Programme description
Course history


This course provides an in-depth exploration of social science’s evolving role within society, alongside the potential influences of societal stakeholders on the social sciences. Closely related to the courses on the philosophy of science and science ethics, this course covers issues of new expectations and requirements of research to interact and engage with society, and how they may reflect more general societal transformations affecting the production and valuation of knowledge.

These expectations and requirements concern issues such as achieving societal impact, bringing onboard various groups of stakeholders, disseminating research findings to a wide range of and increasingly diverse set of audiences, reaching out to groups in vulnerable positions, and of incorporating non-researchers into the processes of planning, doing and publishing social science research. The course explores these trends against a backdrop of science integrity and academic freedom, which, in some European and wider international contexts, face challenges from political and societal pressures.

Theoretically, the course explores the transformation in knowledge production, moving from a traditional, discipline-centred approach to a more dynamic, context-driven and interdisciplinary one. It delves into, the ‘knowledge economy’ as a real and as an imagined phenomenon, and it considers the theoretical underpinnings of ‘evidence-based research’, including the realist approach. This course will allow candidates to critically reflect upon the drivers of recent trends that increasingly obliterate the borders between the field of science and surrounding fields of politics, practice, and the public sphere. Hereby candidates are prepared to utilize the many possibilities offered by these developments in terms of engaging with the wider society, while recognizing the pitfalls. Candidates will work with practical cases of how their own doctoral research can generate societal and practical impact, involve stakeholders and end-users in the science process, and integrate the principles and practices of ‘open science’.

Required preliminary courses

No prerequisites.

Learning outcomes


After completing the course the PhD candidate:

  • Has advanced knowledge about major trends in social science’s relations to the wider society

  • Has extensive knowledge about specific topics that have come to dominate the academic field such as outreach, user-involvement, stakeholders in research and knowledge translation, citizen science, science skepticism and the politization of science

  • Has advanced knowledge about theories explaining current trends in the relations between research, universities and society


After completion of the course, the PhD candidate:

  • Can discuss his or her own research in terms of possible societal impact and is able to set up a concrete plan outlining the pathway to impact

  • Can discuss his or her project in terms of strategies to involve ordinary citizens in fieldwork or end-users in the design, implementation and dissemination of the research

General competence

After completion of the course, the PhD candidate:


  • Will have strengthened critical awareness when it comes to identifying trends in social science research’s engagement with society

  • Will have improved understanding of their own role as researchers vis-à-vis diverse groups of stakeholders such as state agencies commissioning research, professional associations, user associations and the general public


Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will take the form of lectures and seminar discussions. Concrete examples, preferably from candidates’ own PhD projects, will be used as a basis for discussing different perspectives and aspects of the course’s content.

Course requirements

The course comprises three days of lectures (12 hours) and workshops (3 hours), amounting to 5 ECTS credits.

Active participation is necessary to adequately understand the course material and themes. Candidates will work with practical cases of how their own doctoral research relates to course themes, for example how their research outcomes may lead to impact (i.e. contribute to change in the field), how one may involve users or stakeholders in research activities or how to adopt an ‘open science’ approach. Participation is mandatory and expected in all days of teaching.


The assessment in this course shall be a written essay addressing one of the topics of the course and relating it the PhD student’s own dissertation. The scope of the essay shall be about 8-10 pages, and be delivered within two months after the course. Essays must be submitted within the given deadline, without extensions. Exceptions are made only in the case of illness (documented by sick leave). In these cases, an extension equaling the length of the sick leave can be granted (upon application).

Permitted exam materials and equipment

All examination support material is allowed as long as source reference and quotation technique requirements are applied.

Grading scale

Assessment is pass/ fail. If an essay is graded fail, the candidate has one opportunity to resubmit a revised essay within a given time period.


The final essay is assessed by the course lecturer. The assessment of the essay is based on the learning outcomes for the course.

Admission requirements

The course is elective for PhD candidates in the PhD programme in Social Sciences at OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University.

Prior to the course, candidates are asked to fill-in an online survey to provide the course manager information to make the course as relevant as possible to the group of PhD candidates.