NordForsk Graduate Education Courses

The NordForsk doctoral course “Key concepts and principles for design and critical interpretation of Nordic register-based studies”

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Subject area

Nordic registers constitute individual-level data in registers and databases, so-called microdata, covering vital events, health aspects, demographic and socioeconomic indicators for the entire populations in the Nordic countries over a period of decades. These features make the combination of Nordic register data an indispensable and powerful resource for answering a multitude of research questions, in a time- and costeffective manner, and can ultimately provide policy-makers and key actors with new knowledge.

Overall course description

This two-week course is divided into two separate course weeks. The course will be arranged as a retreat somewhere in Sweden. Travel costs and accommodation will be covered in relation to the educational activities.

The purpose of this two-week course is to provide participants with knowledge on how registers can and should be used for research purposes. This course will cover central concepts and principles for design and critical interpretation of Nordic register-based studies, taking ethical aspects and legal principles into consideration, and be divided into three aligned modules. The third module will be integrated in the two other modules.

Course dates Cohort 1: September 23-27, 2019 (week 1) and January 13-17, 2020 (week 2)
Course dates Cohort 2: March 30-April 3, 2020 (week 1) and September 28-October 2, 2020 (week 2)

Intended learning outcomes

After the course, the student should be able to:

Module 1

- describe theoretical models for causation and discuss the principles of causal mechanisms,

- recognise and formulate well-defined research questions and explain how these are related to the choice of study design,

- explain and contrast central concepts in epidemiological and sociological life-course research,

- explain strengths and weaknesses in common methods and study designs used in register-based research,

- apply knowledge, skills and scientific approach when critically reviewing register -based studies as well as when designing studies in this field.

Module 2

- reason about how to identify register data to answer the research question under study,

- reflect upon different quality aspects, comparability and discrepancies between data sources when combining register data from different countries,

- identify and explain possible sources and structures of bias,

- evaluate how different sources of bias may influence the findings arising in studies and steps to prevent these,

- apply the knowledge attained to identify and reason about potential biases in own research.

Module 3

- discuss legal principles and laws that apply to research on personal data,

- reason about legal systems that protect individual privacy with respect to how personal data are used and distributed to others,

- reason about ethical principles that apply, with specific focus on personal privacy, informed consent and the concept of benefit/harm,

- give adequate consideration of ethical aspects and legal principles when handling personal data in relation to own and others´ research projects.

Target group

The target group is doctoral students (and those who have recently completed their doctoral education) involved in register-based research within their research training. Eligible applicants are registered doctoral students at a Nordic higher education institution.

Administrative Organisation and Steering Group

The administrative and educational organisation is made up of a project leader and an academic administrator.

Project leader: Anita Berglund, Phone: +46 70 7986534, +46 8 524 874 66

Academic Administrator: Johanna Bergman, Phone: +46 8 524 872 66


The steering group consists of members from different Nordic countries and from different research disciplines as well as two student representatives.

Karin Modig, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm

Gunnar Andersson, Stockholm University, Stockholm

Nele Brusselaers, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm

Ilona Koupil, CHESS, Karolinska Institutet/Stockholm University, Stockholm

Max Petzold, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg

Kirk Scott, Lund University, Lund

Arvid Sjölander, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm

Magnus Stenbeck, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm

Serhiy Dekhtyar, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm

Eero Pukkala, Finnish Cancer Registry, Helsinki

Torkild Hovde Lyngstad, Oslo University, Oslo

Stefán Hrafn Jónsson, University of Iceland, Reykjavik

Ivo Grigorov, Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen


Application is done via the Karolinska Institutet course catalogue. The course catalogue for spring semester 2020 will be open for application during the period October 16 to November 15, 2019.

A letter of motivation from the main supervisor is required, which should state that the student is recommended and permitted to take part in the course (with the exceptions of emergencies), (not exceeding one A4 sized page). This letter should be emailed to Johanna Bergman.

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