The role of science in legal research: expanding the limits of legal projects

Info about event


Monday 20 June 2022, at 09:00 - Tuesday 21 June 2022, at 16:00


Department of Law, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University, building-room 1410-247


Law often looks to science to answer core legal questions. Examples are many, including, the patentability of new medications, defining the levels of environmental risks, using the insanity defense in criminal proceedings, and understanding consumers’ perception of green products. Concepts and data originating from various scientific fields, such as other social science branches, bioscience and engineering, are central to legal development and application of law, and thus to legal research. This challenges our traditional understanding of legal research as purely ‘the stringent application of legal research methods on sources of law to answer legal questions’.

Aspects from other scientific disciplines can find their way into legal projects through the formulation of research questions, the selection of research methods, and/or identification of sources we use to answer the research questions.

First of all, in the complex and increasingly interconnected world, legal research questions may contain considerations from other scientific fields. It happens when a research question includes terms and concepts originating in science and where the legal researcher cannot answer the question without engaging in methods or sources of other scientific fields. Secondly, some legal questions may be better answered using less common legal methods or methods ‘borrowed’ from other academic areas. Finally, when we speak of sources of law, it is presumed that we have a clear idea about what law is. However, with the transnational character of topical issues (such as public health, business relations, information, and climate change), the access to different sources of information online, and the trend towards legal pluralism, the definition of law, and thus also delimitation of sources of law becomes blurred. Moreover, even answers to dogmatic legal questions might need a recourse to scientific literature and data.

The course will thus focus on the role of science in legal research and the following expansion of the boundaries of legal research through considering scientific aspects in legal research questions, through applying less common research methods on legal questions including a scientific aspect, and through using non-traditional sources of law and literature and data from other scientific fields to augment legal research.

The purpose of this course is to:

  • engage in an academic discussion of the role of science in legal research and challenge the students’ ideas about the limits of legal research, and assess the participants’ projects in relation to those limits;
  • help PhD fellows identify any aspects in their projects originating from other science fields and fine-tune and nuance their research questions in the light of what is possible using different traditional and less common methods and sources of law and information;
  • help the students make methodological choices that facilitate answering their research questions while maintaining a sound research framework.

Learning outcomes

After participating in the course, the students will be able to:

  • explain whether and, if yes, why their projects include aspects of other science fields and, therefore, if and how their projects challenge the limits of traditional legal research;
  • choose appropriate methods and sources for legal projects involving scientific aspects;
  • justify the methodological choices they make to answer their research questions; and
  • assess the relevance and legal validity of different sources of law and information used in their projects.


Travel grants are available to participants upon application to the course coordinator (katpe@law.au.dk). In your e-mail, please state where you are coming from. The grants are expected to partially cover the overall travel and accommodation expenses.

The participation at the networking dinner is free of charge for the course participants.

Course coordinator

Katerina Mitkidis (katpe@law.au.dk).


  • Beatriz Martinez Romera, Associate professor, Centre for International Law and Governance, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen
  • Louise C. Druedahl, Postdoctoral fellow, JUR Centre for Advanced Studies in Biomedical Innovation Law, Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen (to be confirmed
  • Thomas Neumann, Associate professor, Department of Law, Aalborg University
  • Katerina Mitkidis, Associate professor, Department of law, Aarhus University


The discussions during both days will be guided by the participants’ project descriptions. Participants should be prepared to briefly introduce their own project and actively engage in constructive discussion about their peers’ projects. (Each participant will serve as a discussant for one project description.)


Morning session  - ‘Limits of legal research’

This session will address what is commonly understood by traditional legal research. We will touch upon traditional legal research topics, traditional legal methods, and traditional legal sources.

We will discuss if we can discern purely legal research from other scientific disciplines and what the distinguishing features are.

Afternoon session –‘Challenging the limits of legal research through research questions’

The afternoon session will be devoted to research topics and questions on and beyond the limits of legal research. Such research topics may, for example, deal with topics on the border of law and natural science fields, psychological and behavioural aspects of law, or the intersection between law and policy. The specific topics will be derived from the participants’ projects.

We will discuss how to assure that the research questions do stay within the realm of legal research and how these topics may be approached through legal methods.

Networking dinner with the lecturers and other participants.


Morning session – ‘Challenging the limits of legal research through methods’

During this session, participants will be introduced to selected research methods, originating from other science fields, such as interviews, empirical inquiry into publicly available information, quantitative methods, behavioural experiments, and functional comparisons. We will also discuss when the application of such a method is necessary, when it improves the project, and when it may actually weaken the project.  

Afternoon session – ‘Challenging the limits of legal research through sources’

The last session will focus on the definition of law and legal sources, and on the possibility and value in using other than legal sources and data. In this respect, we will discuss how far participants can deviate from legal sources, official publications, and traditional legal scholarly writings to answer their research questions and whether they can apply traditional legal methods on ‘new’ sources of law.


The participants are required to send a summary (max. 3 pages) of their research project as early as possible and latest by May 29, 2022. This relatively early deadline will allow the course coordinator to shape the programme as much as possible to participants’ needs. As part of the summary, students are required to analyze whether their project includes some aspects from other scientific disciplines and, if so, where (in research questions, methods or used sources), the description of the chosen (or contemplated) research methods and justification of those methods.

Ca. 200 pages of reading material will be assigned for the course, including specific questions to some of the readings. These will be discussed in the different sessions.

The students are required to read all the project summaries and the selected reading materials. Each participant is required to analyze and comment on the summary of a peer assigned to them.




In case you have questions regarding the content and assignments of the course please contact the course coordinator, Katerina Mitkidis (katpe@law.au.dk).


Please register with Mette Hyldahl Lauritzen (mhyl@law.au.dk) before May 22, 2022.