The 4th Annual Conference for the Doctoral Programme in Political, Societal and Regional Change and the Doctoral Programme in Social Sciences, University of Helsinki.

Time: 24-25 October 2017
Venue: Metsätalo, Unioninkatu 40


“Beyond Truth and Falsity?”
The Social Sciences in an Age of Uncertainty


Keynote speakers: Stephen Turner and Mette Marie Roslyng


Today, researchers are faced with a growing scepticism concerning the value of scientific knowledge and the authority of expertise, suspicions increasingly stemming from external sources such as populist politics and antagonistic media. For social sciences, this trend not only poses a potential crisis of legitimacy but also provides an object of investigation in itself.

In this fourth annual graduate conference, we especially invite proposals that address evolving challenges for the production, justification, and public dissemination of social-scientific knowledge and criticism. We welcome papers that deal with the societal and intellectual developments behind the current predicament, contributions that elucidate how the problems in question may affect individual disciplines, and new openings that strive to articulate plausible paths forward for social inquiry under conditions of amplified uncertainty.

Suitable topics for discussion include the status of social-scientific knowledge in the so-called “post-truth era” and other epistemic issues facing the social sciences today:

  • How should social inquiry deal with increasing fragmentation and pluralism?
  • Can we still find some common ground in research and public life? Or should we engage in the serious investigation and establishing of plural grounds for social research?
  • How does the alleged “data boom” affect social inquiry? What constitutes data in different kinds of social research, and by what means should it be interpreted? 
  • How can we analyse and address uncertainties in an age of uncertainty?

Contributors can also address long-running but still highly pertinent questions concerning the aims and methods of social research:

  • Are the social sciences primarily objective and truth-seeking enterprises, or does their legitimation stand on a different basis?
  • Should social inquiry embrace advocacy and political activism? How do social scientists engage in their communities? Should we actively challenge academic ivory towers?
  • How should we deal with regional differences and inequalities, and the tension between promotion of diversity and pursuits of global justice?
  • Do we need new conceptions of social research and its methods to respond to contemporary quandaries, or should we rather defend and improve the time-honoured tools of the trade?

Other topics of interest include emerging challenges for the ethics of social research and questions pertaining to popularisation and the broader public accessibility of social-scientific knowledge.

The event will bring together PhD candidates, PhD supervisors, and junior and senior-level researchers from different social-scientific oriented disciplines. The conference consists of plenary sessions as well as workshops in which doctoral candidates have the opportunity to present their papers and receive feedback from peers, colleagues, professors, and experts in their fields. We warmly welcome doctoral candidates to present their research at the conference. The call is also open to any topics relevant to the organising doctoral programmes; they do not have to be related to the theme of the conference. Yet, we encourage reflection on research processes, methods, and data on these other themes.

Please send your abstracts (maximum 300 words) by August 28, using the following electronic form:

Please add four to five keywords to your abstract in order to facilitate the allocation of individual papers to different workshops. The deadline for final papers is October 9, 2017. The maximum length for papers is 5,000 – 6,000 words. Those doctoral candidates studying at the University of Helsinki who will give a presentation of their paper will be awarded 2 study credits.

You are warmly welcomed!

On the behalf of organizing committee: Mats Bergman, Emilia Palonen, Kirsi Korpiaho (coordinator)