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Social Science Lab


Admission requirements

This introductory course is compulsory for students that start with the FSW Honours College Science & Society track in the second semester of their first academic year. This course welcomes students from all disciplines and all walks of life.


This course explores how the social sciences can think about the bigger and deeper questions of the day. We approach the social sciences as a fascinating and continuously evolving discipline, situated in a particular time and space. The course invites students to free up their curious minds to rethink the relationship between science, society, and self.

We engage with philosophy of science and psychology literatures as well as transformation, feminist, and post-colonial scholarship. We also draw inspiration from movies and documentaries. The course material reflects on the urgent need to transform what it means to be 'scientific' when the space to address the existential threats is getting ever shorter. We examine questions such as: Who actually gets to define the bigger and deeper questions of the day? How can social sciences help us to address the terrifying conditions that define our lived realities today, such as climate change, growing inequality, political polarization, and the sixth mass extinction? How can the social sciences enhance our capacity to interpret and navigate in the world? How does the social sciences touch upon the very foundation of our everyday lives, and is thereby personal?

The first part of the course invites us to reflect on how we relate to ourselves and others. We learn about the chatter in the back of our minds that hinder deep listening, such as right/wrong, agree/disagree, find the flaw, not responsible, us/them, either/or, not enough. By listening deeply and speaking responsibly, we transform disempowering narratives. We furthermore discuss what it means to be compassionate in these polarizing times. We explore how compassion as a universal value can guide us in our study of the world.

The second part of the course allows us to think about various social scientific principles. We discuss how interdisciplinarity can be meaningful to generate novel perspectives on societal problems, and how transcending disciplinary silos also comes with challenges. We proceed by discussing another principle, one that has increasingly been recognized as an important criterion for thoughtful social science in a post-modern world: reflexivity. The assumption is that social scientific knowledge becomes more objective by being aware and transparent about the implicit bias that we carry as humans living in the world. We also explore the types of knowledge that can help us obtain a richer understanding of our subject matters, such as local, Indigenous, affective, and embodied ways of knowing.

The final part of this course invites students to demystify scientific findings in a time where populism and post-truth reign. A key insight is that the demystification of complexity is inextricably linked with the democratization of the social sciences and academia at large.

Today is a new day for a new generation of social scientists, and that generation is us. This course is concerned with reflection upon how we, as students, can tap into our fullest potential to meaningfully contribute to the transformation of science, society, and self. You will be placed in an interdisciplinary think tank to design conscious and strategic interventions for societal problems relating to sustainability, polarization, and robotization. You will use transformative design templates that are based on universal values to not only solve problems but to also realize the fullest potential of science, society, and self.

Course objectives

At the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • explain how the social sciences can think about the challenges of the day

  • explain the relationship between science, society, and self

  • design conscious and strategic interventions for societal problems

  • dialogue and reflect in an interdisciplinary context


The sessions will take place in Leiden and The Hague. You will be allocated to group A or B.

Date Time Location Tentative programme
27-02-2023 Group A 17:30-20:00 The Hague Listening deeply
02-03-2023 Group B
13-03-2023 Group A 18:00-20:30 Leiden Being compassionate
16-03-2023 Group B
27-03-2023 18:00-20:30 The Hague Transcending disciplines
17-04-2023 18:00-20:30 Leiden Practicing reflexivity
01-05-2023 18:00-20:30 The Hague Demystifying complexity
12-05-2023 14:30 -17:00 Leiden Synthesizing knowledge



Mode of instruction

Students are expected to invest approximately 140 hours for this 5 ECTS course by:

  • Attending 6 sessions (participation is mandatory) – 17 hours

  • Engaging meaningfully with the course material – 73 hours

  • Writing the individual and group reflection notes based on iteration – 20 hours

  • Designing conscious and strategic interventions for societal problems – 15 hours

  • Creating the final assessments – 15 hours

Course material

We engage with a diversity of material in this course that can be divided into three groups. First, we read Radical Transformational Leadership: Strategic Action for Change Agents by Monica Sharma (2017). Trained as a physician and epidemiologist, the author achieved a track record of generating measurable results at scale during her 22 years of work at the United Nations. What makes Sharma’s work unique is her holistic and non-linear approach to change, inviting practitioners to connect their mind, heart, and hand. Second, we study a variety of interpretive social scientific articles and book chapters. And finally, we watch the movie Twelve Angry Men by Sidney Lumet (1967) and the documentary Human by Yann Arthus-Bertrand (2015). The diverse sources enable us to free up our curious minds to rethink the relationship between science, society, and self.


Registration is automatic when your participation in the Science & Society track is confirmed by email.


If you have any questions, please contact: Honours College FSW