Research Workshop by Bent Flyvbjerg - Making Social Science Matter: Applied Phronesis

Research Workshop by Bent Flyvbjerg - Making Social Science Matter: Applied Phronesis

What is phronesis and how is it employed as a practical research methodology? The power of value-rationality in research. Four value-rational questions that will help you structure your research in a meaningful manner.

About the event

Thursday, November 3, 2022 12:30 PM - Thursday, November 3, 2022 4:00 PM

ScrollBar, IT University of Copenhagen

Specifically, the four value-rational questions at the heart of phronesis are:

  1. Where are we going (with the research problematic in question)?
  2. Who gains and who loses, and by which mechanisms of power?
  3. Is this development desirable?
  4. What should we do about it, if anything?

The specific research problematic can be anything, from understanding a single project or person or group to global issues like digitalization, electrification, and climate change; anything, big and small.

We suggest that beforehand you think of a specific research problematic you're working with and then briefly answer each of the four questions for that problematic.

For the sake of argument, assume you're working with government IT in Denmark; that's your research problematic. The questions you'd ask, and answer would then be (1) Where are we going with government IT in Denmark? (2) Who gains and who loses from this, and by which mechanisms of power? (3) Is the described development desirable? (4) What should we do about it, if anything (and who is the "we" in the last question)?

For an illustrative example, see how Flyvbjerg (2012) answered the four questions for megaprojects, but please do answer the questions for your own research, so we have something interesting to discuss in the workshop!

About the Research Workshops by Bent Flyvbjerg

Bent Flyvbjerg will argue that for good research you need a good idea, good data, strong theory, and robust methodology. If you don't tick these four boxes, not only is your research unlikely to be successful, it's also likely to be painful. Unfortunately, the world is filled with bad ideas, bad data, weak theory, and fragile methodology, or so Flyvbjerg holds. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the bad stuff and get to good research, which will be a focus of the workshops.

The research workshops by Flyvbjerg are aimed at researchers – Danish or international – who want to improve their skills for carrying out hands-on empirical and theoretical research. Qualitative and quantitative methodology will be covered, as will data collection, choice of theory, and development of methodology. Doctoral students, postdocs and master’s students are particularly welcome, but researchers at any stage of their career will find value in the workshops.

If possible, please bring problems from your own ongoing research that you are prepared to share and discuss.

The format will be 2 x 1 hour with a 30-minute break (to socialize). Bent Flyvbjerg will kick off each workshop with a 10-to-15-minute introduction to the day's topic based on his own experience, after which the floor will be opened for discussion of participants' research issues. There will also be time for more general Q&A. Participants are encouraged to hang around after 15:30, to socialize further and to ask questions one-on-one.

It would be an advantage, and would facilitate discussion, if participants acquaint themselves with the readings before each workshop.

Women are encouraged to participate. We're tired of male-dominated research.


Flyvbjerg, Bent, 2001, Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Flyvbjerg, Bent, Todd Landman, and Sanford Schram, 2012 eds., Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Flyvbjerg, Bent, 2012, "Why Mass Media Matter and How to Work with Them: Phronesis and Megaprojects," in Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman, and Sanford Schram, eds., Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis (Cambridge University Press), pp. 95-121, free pdf: