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Introduction to Life and Behavioral Sciences


Admission requirements



In this course, emphasis is on the role of methodology and statistics in the field of the Life and Behavioural Sciences. Good research methodology and valid statistical methods are of vital importance for progress in this field. This course gives an overview of the role of statistics in three broad research themes:

  • Clinical, Epidemiological, and Observational Medical Research. Leiden University Medical Center.

  • Plant/Animal/Human Genetics and Genomics, and Environmental Research. Wageningen University.

  • (Neuro)psychological Research. Leiden University.

Part of each theme are research visits to research institutes where an overview of the area is given with emphasis on current methodology and statistical applications. Additional background knowledge is provided by articles and lectures. Research visits include:

  • Leiden University Medical Center, Center for Human Drug Research, Leiden

  • Wageningen University, Wageningen

  • Institute for Test Development (CITO), Arnhem

  • Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition MRI scanner, Leiden

Course objectives

The overall aim of this course is to introduce students to important areas of application of statistical methods in the Life and Behavioural Sciences. More specifically, students should, at the end of the course:

  • Have basic knowledge of the types of research performed in the different subfields in the Life and Behavioural sciences.

  • Have basic knowledge of research designs and statistical methods of the different subfields in the Life and Behavioural sciences.

  • Be able to identify the prominent statistical methods within a subfield.

  • Be able to critically assess the role of the statistical method within a sub-field (i.e. highlight advantages, and limitations).

  • Be able to compare the role of statistics across different subfields (i.e. highligt similarities and differences).

Mode of Instruction

The course consists of three two-hour lectures, three full day, and two half-day visits to research institutes.

Time Table

For the course days, course location and class hours check the Time Table under the tab “Statsci Students -> Program Schedule” at http://www.math.leidenuniv.nl/statisticalscience

Not all of the course days will be used for class, the specific dates will be announced during at the start of the course.

Assessment method

Assessment of the ILBS course consists of an oral exam of 20 minutes with 2 of the ILBS teachers in which the student will be asked to defend his/her essay. The essay is an overview of the research in one of the application areas covered in the ILBS course (clinical theme, agricultural theme, epidemiological theme and behavioural sciences/psychology theme). Specifically, the essay should consist of (at least) the following points:

  • A description of typical research questions in the application area. For example, what are common questions in the application area? What is the nature of these questions (are they fundamental in nature and/or applied?). This section should give the reader an idea of the current 'hot topics' in the application area.

  • A description of the statistical methodology used to help answering these typical research questions within the application area. For example, what kind of research designs are used? What kind of statistical analyses? This section should give the reader an overview of the common statistical methods and designs.

  • A discussion about the contribution of the statistical methodology to answering these research questions in the application area. For example, how do statistics contribute to furthering the field? Is there a need for new statistical methods? How can data-scientists contribute (i.e. how do you as a data-scientist think you can contribute to the field)? This section should give readers an overview of how statistics (and data-scientists/statisticians) contribute to the application area.

  • A comparison of the use of statistics in the application area with that in one or more of the other application areas covered in the course. How does the use of statistics differ between these areas? What are the major differences and/or similarities?

  • End your essay with a small conclusion about the state of statistics/data science in the application area.

The essay should contain about 2000 words (excluding figures, tables, references) and should be sent by email to all teachers not later than 5 days before the date of the exam. Be sure to properly reference to literature when applicable (and add a reference list if you use references). Figures and tables are also allowed if they clarify the text.

The final grade will be based on the quality of the essay (70%) and performance on the oral exam (30%). A resit possibility is scheduled in consultation with the teacher.

Lecture and research visit attendance is obligatory. Details concerning this obligation will be announced at the first day of the course. If the attendance obligation is not met, the course has to be retaken the following academic year.

Course Registration

Enroll in Blackboard for the course materials and course updates.

To be able to obtain a grade and the ECTS for the course, sign up for the (re-)exam in uSis ten calendar days before the actual (re-)exam will take place. Note, the student is expected to participate actively in all activities of the program and therefore uses and registers for the first exam opportunity.

Course Materials

Literature will be specified during the course, no books are required.

Course information

Wouter Weeda: w [dot] d [dot] weeda [at] fsw [dot] leidenuniv [dot] nl


  • This is a compulsory course in the Master’s programme of the specialisation Statistical Science for the Life & Behavioural sciences.