On September 27, the ELS Academy kick-off event for the PhD cohort of 2023-2024 took place in Utrecht.
Helen Pluut, director of the ELS Academy, gave the opening speech. She addressed the new cohort of PhD students, emphasizing how each of them is part of a growing community that gives an impetus to empirical legal studies in the Netherlands. She reflected on how Empirical Legal Studies is in a transition phase: there is an interest and ambition to do sound empirical legal research, but many who have this ambition do not yet have the background and training to do this. PhD students often do not have a supervisor who can guide them in this respect. As a national, interuniversity research school, the ELS Academy aims to fill this gap. Pluut explained how she hopes this cohort will feel part of a community and participate together in the events that are to come this year.
Professor Tom Tyler from Yale Law School responded by saying he wished they would have had a national program like this in the US. He then moved on to give an inspiring keynote presentation in which he combined insights from political psychology and social psychology to answer the very legally relevant question ‘Why do people obey the law?’ His impressive body of empirical work confidently demonstrates that legitimacy trumps risk as a predictor of compliance. It is the fairness of processes that legal authorities use (i.e. procedural justice) that shapes public behavior.
After the keynote presentation, the participants split into groups for the individual presentations of the PhD researchers.
Lunch at de Rechtbank was a great opportunity for the PhD researchers to get to know each other better and mingle with the senior members of the ELS Academy, and of course with Professor Tyler.
The afternoon resumed with more presentations by PhD researchers, with ample opportunity to brainstorm ideas and receive feedback on the methodology.
The last part of the program was definitely not the least: in ‘college tour’ style, Professor Kees van den Bos posed questions to Professor Tyler about for instance the formative years of his career, how to combine different disciplines, and his experiences with publishing and getting rejected.
After posing for a group picture, all participants celebrated the day and what’s to come with drinks and snacks.