A glimpse inside the biggest project of the DocTeam

Being a doctoral researcher is more than just doing science, working in a lab or programming simulations! Being a (young) scientist means also to be able to communicate with other scientist, publish as many of your results as possible in scientific journals, make yourself a name within the scientific community and deepen your knowledge about special methods used in your field of research! But these skills are usually only taught partly at university during your study program. Especially, how to write a scientific paper in English is something, a student does not always learn during his/her studies in Germany. Therefore, so called graduate schools are established, which offer courses in different areas and provide doctoral researchers with transferable and methodological skills.

In the research center Jülich, two graduate schools already exist, namely HITEC (Helmholtz Interdisciplinary Doctoral Training in Energy and Climate Research, ca. 150 Docs) and IHRS BioSoft (International Helmholtz Research School of Biophysics and Soft Matter, ca. 40 Docs). However, these two graduate schools only cover the doctoral researchers of some institutes of the FZJ. In order to offer the same opportunities and advantages to all young scientists, several departments of the research center work together on a large project, called Doctoral Researchers’ Platform – short DocPlatform. One, or maybe the most important point of the development process is, to build the platform up on best-practice-examples from every field that already exist within the institutes of the FZJ and not reinvent the wheel again so that all doctoral researchers and supervisors can profit.

Strucutre of the DocPlatform. Created by Sebstaian Schmitt (DocTeam).

The scheme on the left shows how the single stakeholders, e.g. doctoral committee, the DocTeam and supervisors, as well as the graduate schools HITEC and BioSoft and the single institutes that will be combined and connected within the DocPlatform. The focus lies on a high quality education of young scientists. Thereby involved are the doctoral researchers of course, represented by the DocTeam, as well as the supervisors, that can be postdocs, group leaders, (junior) professors or the head of the institute, and the doctoral committee consisting of some professors, people from the Human Resource department, the corporate development and representatives of the DocTeam. These three groups are connected by scientific coordination, which shall ensure an excellent supervision and scientific education for every doc from the first day in Jülich to the last.

A special focus lies thereby on five main points:

  •   Establishment of standardized processes and monitoring from the first to the last day, in order to reduce and standardize administration work
  •  Establishment of supervision standards and guidelines, concerning rights and liabilities of docs and supervisors
  •  Establishment of interdisciplinary career orientation, crisis counseling, transferable skill courses
  •  Establishment of a central network for every doc and supervisor (registration)
  •  Establishment of reliable statistics

As mentioned before, all these goals are implemented by using the already existing methods and experience of the graduate schools and institutes to bundle the interests and concerns of doctoral researchers. In order to achieve this, the entire development process is divided into project phases and sub-working groups, which deal only with special aspects, respectively. Since the DocPlatform shall improve the situation of doctoral researchers, the DocTeam sends some volunteers to the single working groups in order to introduce the perspective of the current docs.

Right now, the development is still in the early stage, in which the single working groups meet for the first time and start investigating the situation and working on the pre-defined milestones. However, nothing is written in stone, yet!
The single work packages in the first phase are divided as follows:

  • Project actual situation and weak point analysis: This group will analyze the current state of the art of the doctoral researcher’s administration.
  • English as platform language: This group figures out, which documents, forms, documentation and information is relevant for docs and should be therefore also available in English.
  • Supervisor-Forum: similar to the DocTeam, the supervisors shall be interconnected with each other and use the forum for dialogical and cooperative discussions. Furthermore, the forum will be the basis for the subprojects “development of standardized supervision” and “development of qualification goals for docs and supervisors”.
  • Career development: This group is concerned with questions like “what possible career paths do exist inside and outside of science?”
  • Transferable skills: This group developed relevant transferable skill topics which are important for doctoral researchers, e.g. scientific writing and communication courses shall be offered to make doctoral researchers more confident in presenting science.
  • Supervision Guidelines: This group will define the rights and liabilities between docs and their supervisors to achieve an optimal supervision and increase the visibility of the support given by the supervisors

Probably you can imagine how much work it is to develop such a concept and take into account all the different perspectives, wishes and claims. However, till end of April the first stage should be done and all the acquired results will be presented in order to define target processes and start with the second stage.


At the end of this entire project, every institute of the research center Jülich will be a part of the DocPlatform and the interface to the partner universities, at which the doctoral researchers have to defend their thesis, are well defined.


For us, as DocTeam, this project is a big chance to make a difference for the better and since a lot of us are involved in one of these working groups you will find more detailed reports about our work in this blog soon.

Stefanie Hamacher

About Stefanie Hamacher

Steffi has been a doctoral researcher at the PGI-8 since June 2016 and joined the DocTeam in August of the same year. She took over the position as editor of the DocTeam Newsletter and supports the working group Public Relations with respect to the communication between the DocTeam and the other Docs.

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