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About Empirical Legal Studies

The research profile of VU Amsterdam’s Law Faculty is strongly focused on empirical legal studies. This reflects how law is not separate from but closely intertwined in society, societal developments and human behaviour.

As part of the Law Sector Plan we are continuing to foster and reinforce this profile through the research we conduct and through staff and student training, with Empirical Legal Studies (ELS) as our spearhead. Academic research in this field involves qualitative and quantitative empirical research into:

  • The assumptions underlying law;
  • The way in which law is applied;
  • The effects of the legal system and law in society.

This focus creates opportunities for research into innovative topics.

The faculty’s ambition within the scope of the Sector Plan is to use the opportunities that Empirical Legal Studies offer for innovative research across the full spectrum of all our seven faculty research programmes. As well as strengthening, renewing and adapting existing lines of research, we are recruiting students, PhD candidates and young researchers to reinforce our ELS research community. Existing staff members are fully involved in this process and will be expanding their knowledge of empirical legal research methods. We will also be undertaking various activities to encourage the spreading and sharing of knowledge on this subject.

These innovative changes will take shape in, for example, our Law in Society programme, a range of new ELS courses and literature, research tracks and collaboration on Research Masters programmes, an ELS help desk that is being set up to support researchers, PhD programmes with an ELS component and – last but not least – in the Amsterdam Behavioral Law & Economics Lab, which will facilitate collaboration between legal scholars and behavioural economists.

The aim of this approach is to train a new generation of ELS researchers and to add empirical legal skills to our students’ and staff members’ methodology toolkits. All with the objective of attaining a leading role for the faculty in major ELS research at both a Dutch and European level.

As part of the Sector Plan, several PhD candidates are currently conducting research with an empirical component. See this page for details of their research.