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Table of contents

  1. Description
    1. Target Learning Outcomes
  2. Course Expectations
    1. Classroom Organization
    2. Students can expect from the course
    3. We expect from students
  3. Assignments
    1. Project topics


This is a collaborative course between social science students at the University of Helsinki and computer science students at Aalto University. Students will work in mixed teams to apply computational methods to study the social and political aspects of climate governance.

Expand the sections below for detailed course descriptions.

Climate Governance (Univ. Helsinki)

This is a course on climate governance, which we take to broadly include the drivers and consequences of policies associated with the distributional outcomes stemming from climate change. Climate change is one of the most dire problems facing contemporary society. A large part of these challenges are social and political in nature, which we can address using sound social scientific research. In this course, students will begin to acquire the skills needed to do this kind of work. First, students will be introduced to concepts in policy studies and topics in contemporary climate governance. Second, with applications to climate governance, students will take a hands-on approach to learning how to do research using quantitative or computational social science approaches. This will be done through research teams comprising budding domain experts (i.e. students themselves) and technical specialists who will serve as data scientists. The technical specialists will be data science and other computational science students from Aalto University enrolled in a companion course on applied data science.

Applied Data Science (Aalto Univ.)

This is an applied data science course where students will learn how to collaborate with domain experts. With the complexity of today’s policy issues as well as the increasing availability of rich but messy data, there is demand for researchers who are skilled in data science and quantitative approaches to studying complex systems. Cross-domain communication is key to successful collaboration, but it is a difficult and often missed part of data science training. In this course, students will take a hands-on approach to learning these skills by working as data scientists on policy research teams. We will specifically be working with social science and policy researchers studying climate governance, but the skills learned should be broadly applicable to research scenarios in the public, academic, and private sectors. The domain experts will be social science students from the University of Helsinki enrolled in a companion course on climate governance.

Target Learning Outcomes

  • Understanding of topical themes in climate governance
  • Working knowledge of the policy process
  • Skills to work in a team comprising domain experts and technical specialists
  • Skills to communicate expert knowledge (substantive and technical) to lay audiences

Course Expectations

Classroom Organization

This course will be conducted fully virtually. As much as possible, we will use a “flipped classroom” format where lectures or notes are provided to students to work through prior to the class. During the regularly scheduled class time, students will be working in breakout rooms with their teams on the research project, and the instructors will rotate between teams to help as needed. This structure is to ensure teams have a dedicated time slot when they can work together with as little need to coordinate outside of the class as possible.

Students can expect from the course

  • An instruction team from the University of Helsinki and Aalto University made up of social scientists and data scientists that is experienced with climate policy research in multidisciplinary teams.
  • Instructors who will respect students’ backgrounds and strive to make the course an inclusive learning environment by following the course Code of Conduct.
  • Lectures in video and text format. Depending on the specific session, these will be provided either in advance or shortly after the session.
  • Potential to collaborate with one or more instructors on an academic paper based on a course project. We are open to working with students who wish to pursue an academic career. More detail will be provided during the first class.
  • (Aalto students) Many of the class sessions will focus on domain knowledge in climate governance because this is important for your team projects. However, we do not expect you to become experts on climate governance. Instead, your main task in the course is to apply your technical expertise to bring a policy research project to fruition. The hands-on instruction will help you do this.

We expect from students

  • Commitment to research and hands-on learning. This is a research-based course, where lectures are designed as supporting material. We conceive of research broadly, including academic and policy-oriented research.
  • Respect for everyone involved with the course (i.e. students, instructors, guest lecturers), and follow the course Code of Conduct. It is especially important to understand that teams will comprise members from diverse and multidisciplinary backgrounds. A large part of this course is learning to work in these types of teams. Communication and patience are paramount.
  • Full attendance, as much as possible. Students will be working in teams, and missed sessions are difficult to make up.
  • Basics: contribute to team work; do the readings; listen or read the lectures.


Tasks for the course will be organized around a written project students undertake in teams. Based on their interests and career goals, students can choose from a number of different topics, written as either a short research paper or policy brief.

AssignmentDue DateWeight
Final team composition and topic23.3-
Interim reports9.415%
Oral presentation20.-22.420%
Final written project21.545%
Peer evaluation on effort*21.520%
*Subject to instructor approval.

Project topics

Teams can choose from a project provided by the instruction team, for which they will be provided some data to use. Teams are free to choose their own project, with approval from the instructors. If you choose your own project, you are responsible for your own data, but instructors will help as much as possible.

The topics listed here are broad topics that can cover multiple team projects. More details will be provided in the first class.

  • How do policy actors communicate with each other? Why?
  • What is the role of science in the climate policy process?
  • Understanding public opinion on climate change.
  • Quantifying the social consequences of climate change.