Department of Sociology and Social Work

Research strategy (2022-2026) for SCOPAS - Shaping concepts, practice and advances in social work

Research strategy (2022-2026) for SCOPAS - Shaping concepts, practice and advances in social work

Part 1 - Vision and mission

The research group – aim and focus

SCOPAS is a research group with a unique social work research approach in Denmark and internationally.

The aim of the research group is to deliver innovative, excellent, interdisciplinary empirical, practice-oriented and theory-developing research on social work. We focus on in depth and critical knowledge about new trends, challenges, problems and practices in social work that are not yet explored and conceptualized sufficiently and therefore tend to go unnoticed. Our ambition is to advance social work practice as well as the conditions for doing social work in society. Through research, teaching and dialogue with stakeholders, the group promotes a critical and constructive approach focused on problems and alternative perspectives and solutions in social work, in the policies and in the forms of governance and organisation that affect social problems. Read more at about SCOPAS’s aim and focus.

Vision and mission 2022-2026

SCOPAS’ vision 2022-2006 is to become the social work research environment associated with long term impact on social work as well as breaking new ground in understandings of and solutions to social problems. Our mission is:

  • To create knowledge for social sustainable social work in a society challenged by social problems due to existing and new forms of economic, social, material, cultural and technological inequalities.
  • To develop purposes and practices for social work based on knowledge of needs of and in solidarity with people in vulnerable and marginalized positions.
  • To advance our knowledge about human and social suffering as a bio-psycho-social phenomenon with the purpose of promoting human and social welfare and wellbeing.

To pursue this vision and missions, interdisciplinary knowledge is needed. We will work strategically with themes, initiatives, projects, and publications that enable collaborative and interdisciplinary projects necessary to address specific challenges (cf. part 2 – challenges, strategy, and action). This involves reaching out to excellent, relevant, and international research groups and communities.

Knowledge for the World: Social sustainability

The vision and missions of SCOPAS speak genuinely to The UN sustainable development goals. In 2022-2026, we will focus on how social work purposes and practices can contribute to social sustainability as well as human and social welfare and wellbeing. Social work research stands on a long tradition of a dual focus on social and human problems as well as the structures, policies, and forms of governance, organisation and knowledge that can support and advance social and human welfare. Based in social science and humanities, our research is concerned about possibilities for social justice, human rights, collective responsibility, respect for diversity and the improvement of welfare, life chances and wellbeing (cf. ISWF definition of social work).

Aalborg University’s strategy Knowledge for the World 2022-2026 reflects social work research ambitions. In Danish and international social work research there is a strong tradition for collaborating with external partners in all processes of conducting research. In every kind of research, SCOPAS engages in collaboration with stakeholders, decision-makers and/or practitioners as well as international researchers and/or external funders that are relevant for and support this kind of research. In 2022-2026, we will enhance the scope and ambition of such collaborations. This involves engaging in collaborations, projects and funding opportunities in Denmark, the Nordic countries and EU that enable us to address the vision and missions.
Based in The Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, SCOPAS has a particular focus on how social work research can contribute to social and human sustainability in society. This involves a focus on social problems that affect human health and wellbeing, as well as a focus on how social work research can contribute to improve people’s lives through sustainable solutions to social problems. This involves knowledge for changing structures, policies and forms of governance, organisation and practices in social work.

Part 2 – Challenges, strategy and actions

Strategic themes and initiatives

In the previous strategic period, SCOPAS focused on exploring selected themes for the purpose of building research capacity, knowledge, and strategic inspiration. This included projects focusing on a) governance, policies and social work in relation digitalisation and global social conflicts and how these affect social workers and people suffering from social and human problems, b) concept, practices and methods in social work and how they affect views on human beings as well as practices of care and building relations with people suffering from social and human problems, and c) an integrated effort to build new interdisciplinary and international research collaborations as well as collaboration with external stakeholders supported by external funding primarily from national sources.

In 2022-2026, SCOPAS will stand on and further build on this effort by focusing on three strategic themes that specify, how the research group will pursue the vision and missions. The group will focus on research that generates knowledge, concepts and strategies for advancing:

  • Sustainable communities and solidarity with people in vulnerable positions. We will explore possibilities for social integration, inclusion and for diminishing social problems, conflicts and tensions, and forms of human and social suffering stemming from existing and new forms of economic, social, material, cultural and technological inequalities in society.
  • Critical and reflective innovation of new digital technologies. We will explore new digital technologies in social work (e.g., RPA, AI, Apps and ‘welfare technologies’) as well as new concepts and methods in social work practice to maintain a strong focus on the needs of and solidarity with people living in vulnerable and/or marginalised positions.
  • Interdisciplinary exploration of social and human suffering, welfare and wellbeing. Our research will explore the structural, political, cultural, institutional, professional and bio-psycho-social everyday conditions of vulnerable people to suggest strategies and practices for improving welfare and wellbeing.

A portfolio of projects

SCOPAS’s ambition is to have an ongoing portfolio of projects that supports the focus of the group and strategic themes and initiatives. In the previous strategic period, we have cultivated a strategic yet explorative approach to mature and bring research ideas further into research projects suitable for collaboration and external funding. This cultivation involves supporting explorative studies, co-writing publications and intense dialogue in processes of formulating projects into applications for funding. Since 2018, the group has been responsible for externally funded research projects of a total volume of approximately 9 million DKR.

In 2022-2026, SCOPAS will develop its portfolio of research projects within the scope of the strategic themes. This involves an effort to expand interdisciplinary collaboration with other researchers at Aalborg University combined with external collaboration with international researchers/research communities. To enable this, SCOPAS will seek external funding from relevant and prestigious national funding sources and international funding opportunities such as the EU Horizon and ERC grants.

High-quality research and publications with social value

SCOPAS’s ambition is to publish and disseminate high-quality and valuable research in high-ranking relevant international journals. Besides journals in the field of social work research, this includes journals in the field of Sociology, Social Policy, Anthropology, Psychology, Philosophy and Communication and Information studies. The group supports co-writing and collaboration with international researchers e.g., by engaging in international joint publications and special issues.

In addition, it is our ambition to disseminate research to social policy makers; public and private social work organisations and NGO’s; social work actors such as managers, practitioners and user organisations. These are important stakeholders in terms of advancing and strengthening social work and solutions to social problems in society.

In 2022-2026, SCOPAS will continue to host and further develop our annual seminar/webinar for social value, and make our research even more accessible to people and stakeholders through social media, (web based) posts, chronicles, articles, pod cast etc.

National and international networks and collaboration

To enable the development of our portfolio of projects and publications, SCOPAS will strengthen our national and international networks and collaborations.

In 2022-2026, SCOPAS will cultivate existing and create new substantial collaboration with national and international researchers to enable research projects and co-publication. This involves developing collaboration with other relevant research groups at the Department of Sociologi and Social work within the fields of social work and sociology (e.g., SOSA, SOCMAP, CISKO); Reaching out to relevant researchers/research groups within Political Science, Psychology and Law, Public Health and Data Science at Aalborg University; developing our collaboration with international researchers/research groups. SCOPAS will invite researchers for seminars/webinars for the purpose of establishing network and collaboration centered on publications, research projects and joint applications.

Research training, support and talent development at all levels

SCOPAS’ members are already involved in the management, teaching and development of social work study programmes at the department: Bachelor of Social Work; Master of Social Work; Master in vulnerable children and Young People; Master in Nordic Social Work and Welfare and the Erasmus Mundus Master in Advanced Development in Social Work. The group actively seeks to create synergies between education and research by teaching mandatory courses, developing elective courses and supervising students in relation to their problem-based projects.

SCOPAS support students in learning processes that resembles SCOPAS approach to research. This involves encouraging the students to conduct empirical and practice-oriented investigations; to reflect critically on concepts and theories; to have the courage to explore new trends, challenges, problems and practices in social work not yet explored and conceptualized sufficiently; to engage in dialogue with stakeholders concerning problems, perspectives and solutions in social work and to reflect on the broader purposes and values of being a bachelor and/or master in social work.

In 2022-2026, SCOPAS will focus on recruitment of talented students as co-writers and potential research assistants/PhD students.

Dynamic, creative and innovative collaboration

SCOPAS has a high level of activity centered on activities, publications and projects. A high level of activity and creativity requires a collaborative environment characterized by professional support: respect, encouragement, commitment, knowledge sharing and critical reflection to support the work of each member and the group. The group values a trusting and open environment in which members can benefit from each other.

The group arranges monthly research meetings as well as 1-2 annual seminars that include social activities. The meetings offer a space for a wide range of presentations from early ideas and drafts to more elaborated research such as project descriptions, research findings, articles and reports. The group values an informal and social atmosphere combined with professional engagement and thorough processes of peer reviewing each other's work. Between meetings, the group’s members carry out research activities individually and collectively centered on publications and research projects.

In 2022-2026, SCOPAS will initiate initial explorations of concepts and practices not yet explored. The purpose is to create a collective inspiring environment and to facilitate bottom-up collaboration, learning processes and development of future strategic themes. This will eventually result in a joint publication.

Contact SCOPAS

Contact Maria Appel Nissen, Head of Research, SCOPAS - Shaping concepts, practice and advances in social work, Department of Sociology and Social Work, Aalborg University

Head of research Maria Appel Nissen

Kroghstraede 7, room 1
9220 Aalborg East

Phone: +45 9940 7292, +45 2749 5677

Co-Head of Research Mia Arp Fallov

Frederikskaj 10B, C, room 108
2450 København South West

Phone: +45 9940 8110

Department of Sociology and Social Work • Fibigerstraede 13 • 9220  Aalborg East  • Phone: +45 9940 8310 • Email:
Vat no.: 5798000420649 • P numbers; Aalborg: 1012066143, Copenhagen: 1018019139