In April 2017, the first phase of the development process of the Doctoral Researcher and Scientific Advisor Platform (short DocPlatform*) has ended. All the results gained in this phase were presented to the project board in May.

Getting a very positive feedback there, a final meeting with all the participants of phase one was held at which everyone could inform him/herself about the work done in the other subgroups. This was also the start of the second phase, in which the following target processes shall be acquired:

  • E-recruiting of Docs
  • Identification and registration of all Docs
  • Central monitoring of all Docs
  • Transferable-skills curriculum

In this article, I will tell you some more details about the transferable skills subgroup and what it achieved.

The transferable skills group consists of people who are involved with transferable skills in some way already. For example, representatives of the graduate schools HITEC and BioSoft participated, people from Human Resources who are organizing such courses already for all employees of the research center, as well as professors with various experience in transferable skills. And last but not least, two doctoral researchers who shall represent the view of the docs. This mixture of people with very different experience and perspective with respect to transferable skills ensured to be a very productive group.

Before we start getting deeper into transferable skills, I will shortly tell you why they are so important for young scientists. Transferable skills combine two important aspects of the education as researcher. On the one hand, they shall strengthen the professional competences of doctoral researchers to increase the scientific output in terms of quality and efficiency already during the doctoral project. On the other hand, such courses will give doctoral researchers the tools to master tasks they may face in future responsible positions.

This definition leads to the question what skills are important for researchers and with respect to the development of the DocPlatform which skills shall Jülicher Docs achieve during their doctoral project? Besides the “standard” skills like scientific writing and presenting, the answer to that question is not so easy. Therefore, the kick-off meeting addressed mainly three questions:

  • Discover: Which well working offers are available in your institute to gain transferable skills?
  • Dream – envision the future: Which skills should a person with doctoral degree have, who was educated in Jülich?
  • Design accordingly: Which competence profile and skills can be deduced out of this?
  • Deliver – implement: Which qualification offer is needed to convey these competences and skills as good as possible?

At the end the following answers were collected:

  • Discover:
    • in some institutes summer/winter schools taking place on a regular bases
    • of course docs learn to write and present their scientific work by preparing publications and visiting conferences
    • The graduate schools HITEC and BioSoft offer already various transferable skill courses
    • Docs also gain insight into topics like project management, how to write a proposal, career orientation, team building/networking as well as good scientific practice
  • Dream:
    • Presenting and writing in English
    • Communicate science in a broader social target group
    • Creativity (individual approach)
    • Being responsible with respect to your own research but also to ethical and social questions
    • Project management: content-related, organizational and budgetary aspects
  • Deliver:
    • Main goal is to gain the doctoral degree and end the dissertation successfully
    • Get some additional qualifications, but do not compensate omissions from university
    • Course offer shall be used as advertisement for doing a doctoral project in Jülich
    • Explicit offers: research ethics (good scientific practice), presentation, project management, getting published
    • Supplements: problem-solving competence (design thinking)

For the next meeting, a more concrete draft was prepared, which divides the transferable skills into mandatory and volunteer ones. Then of course, there are skills every scientist and researcher should have mastered, such as writing and presenting the scientific output of his/her research in an appropriate way. Other skills depend on the personal interest and strength, e.g. someone wants to stay in science and become a group leader or even a professor, then he/she needs to learn how to supervise others (Supervisor coaching) or how to get his/her own funding (funding opportunities), while scientists who want to start their own company need advice in how to fund a start-up company (Entrepreneurship).

Did you ever listen to a female colleague who was really nervous about giving a talk or presentation? Then you probably noticed that women can get a very high pitched voice, which is rather uncomfortable to listen to. But with some training and experience every woman can learn how to breathe and speak in such a situation to avoid this high pitched tones (Scientific Communication for Women).

Additionally, we want to give our international colleagues the opportunity to learn what is important if they want to stay in Germany for working after they finished their doctoral project. In order to make them aware of all the possibilities but also for all the bureaucratic things they need to consider, we created a course Working in Germany.

Transferable skills overview by M. Nuys


All in all, we set up a transferable skills program that includes all the important and basic things a young scientist needs to master, but also offers a lot of opportunities to shape oneself in the direction of the desired career.

*the final name is still not chosen

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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