Research Programme

Understanding Societal Challenges

Contemporary societies face a range of challenges, some of them unique in history, including global warming, rising inequalities, major international migration flows, and shifting political landscapes. The current research programme of the Sociology section, entitled Understanding Societal Challenges is informed by the conviction that sociology has a lot to offer for understanding and governing these challenges. In-depth research on their constitution, causes, consequences, and interconnectedness at different scales is called for. Examples of societal challenges addressed in our research programme are: family change and intergenerational solidarity, anti-institutionalism and populism, poverty and inequality, welfare state change and resilience, the changing world of work, ­and immigration and transnationalism. In sum, our research programme takes up key sociological questions concerning social equality, social cohesion and identity formation, and applies them to major contemporary challenges.

We do so with a conception of the sociological imagination that is maximally open to the complexities of today’s societies. This means we value both theoretical and methodological pluralism, thereby actively bridging the divide between qualitative versus quantitative strands of sociological research. We utilise that pluralism in addressing research problems in sociology and beyond, actively seeking interdisciplinary collaboration.

On the one hand, our research agenda feeds directly into the research concerns of the Public Administration scholars in our Department, by illuminating the social context in which major governance issues emerge, as well as on their socio-technical, organisational and cultural aspects. Accordingly, in our Department of Public Administration and Sociology sociologists and public administration scholars developed a combined research programme Public Issues and Governance, complementing our programme Understanding Societal Challenges. On the other hand, we actively engage with fields as child and educational psychology, criminology, economics, public health and epidemiology, law, geography, political science, science and technology studies, and work and organisational psychology. This returns in intra- and inter-departmental research cooperation, including active participation in ESSB’s strategic pillars for ‘Meeting the Future Society’ Behavioral Change, Organisational Dynamics in a Digital Society, and Vital Cities and Citizens, and two out of three research foci of Erasmus University (so-called ‘Erasmus Initiatives’): Vital Cities and Citizens and Smarter Choices for Better HealthOur researchers are, furthermore, engaged in interdisciplinary collaborations across the globe, working with scholars based all over Europe, the United States, and China.

We opt for a sociology that matters: our research is geared to a better understanding of major societal challenges, in line with EUR’s strategy 'Creative Positive Societal Impact'. This means our researchers are actively engaged in policy advice and in various ways in the public sphere.

The pertinence of our research strategy for science is underscored by the increasing awareness of the need for interdisciplinary research and theoretical and methodological pluralism as to tackle research problems. Its pertinence for society is underscored by its close alignment with the Dutch Research Agenda, the European Commission’s Societal Challenges and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.