Q&A with the outgoing steering committee

Did your experience as a member of the Steering Group differ from your expectations? If yes, how?

Jonathan Stefanowski
2018/2019 Spokesperson

Yes. I have been a coordinator of the WG Communication before I have been elected as a spokesperson. Therefore, I was informed about the general activities of the network and basic science policy in Germany. In my opinion, informing the doctoral researchers about these activities is very important, which is why I stated the following in my profile at the beginning of my term:
“It is obvious that without active support of the doctoral researchers the Network’s work would disintegrate. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to communicate motivation and reasoning to the very people this work is done for – every member of our network.”
Since then, we have produced high quality content for our blog, in which we are reporting about our work. However, less than I expected. Experience taught me, that the majority of the steering committee’s tasks involve ongoing and evolving discussions with the Leibniz Association, numerous stakeholders, and active members of the network. This makes it challenging to communicate every step of the process to every doctoral researcher. Additionally, even as a member of the network, gaining an overview about the topics of science policy in Germany takes time but is necessary in order to act responsibly. These are the reasons why the online platform can only reflect a fraction of these discussions and activities. I believe that getting involved in the network, through the direct interaction with the section representatives, steering committee, and other networks the barrier of information is broken down effectively. In this interest, I will continue to provide information to any interested doctoral researcher in the future.
Furthermore, as a member of the steering committee, especially as a spokesperson, I experienced and was amazed by how well the Leibniz PhD Network is already established in the discussions on the progression of doctoral education. Examples are the N2 position paper on Conflict Resolution and Power Abuse, on which I commented on in this blog post, or the data gap-filling Leibniz PhD Network Survey among doctoral researchers. (Read more about the media attention on the survey here.) Here, it should be stated that it is evident that the network is still growing – as you can acknowledge by the mere number of current working groups (11) – and clearly has a lot of potential to increase and improve its collaborative activities inside the Leibniz Association.
Being a part of this network is exciting, educating, effective and most of all fun. Information is the key and networking is essential in order to establish the working force of the academic system, the doctoral researchers, as a visible and acknowledged member thereof.

What is something you would like to tell a PhD representative who is considering standing for election to the Steering Group at next year’s General Assembly?

Bastian Sommerfeld
2018/2019 Treasurer

You should definitely do it. As a member of the steering committee, you will gain insight in and have impact on steering the topics that the Leibniz PhD Network addresses during your year in office. It is as much a position of responsibility as it is a learning experience. To put it in Jonathan’s words: it is 5 soft skill courses in one plus exercises! You will learn a lot, about working in groups, working politically and about yourself in the course of a year.
Probably you are unsure whether or not you can handle the work next to your dissertation. Yes, you most likely can. Being part of the steering committee will mean you’ll have to organize yourself and set priorities – a valuable exercise – and you can always decide to how much you can commit. Taking over fewer responsibilities in times of high workload in your dissertation is not a problem; it is merely a matter of communication.
Step up, and become a member of the next steering committee!

What was your biggest eye opener for you to realize how important the Leibniz PhD Network is/could become?

Anja Jahn
2018/2019 Section A Spokesperson

After presenting the results of the 1st survey with Christa Gotter at the Annual Meeting of the Administrations in Jena in May 2019, one head of administration approached me and asked if would have any ideas or best practices to share on how a 4-year working contract for doctoral researchers could be implemented. In that moment I realized that the survey (that was published in February 2019) already started to raise awareness and made people think about change. This change might be slowly, institute by institute, but I hope that within the next 5 years we will be able to observe significant improvements of the working conditions. This was only the beginning.

What motivated you to stand for election to the Steering Group? Is there a specific goal you had, that could be realized during the last year or will be realized soon?

Tim Rottleb
2018/2019 Section B spokesperson

Although the working conditions for doctoral researchers are quite good at my own institute – at least in comparison to some other non-university institutes and definitely in comparison to university departments  –  I think you can say that in the whole German academia they are not. As such structures usually do not improve by themselves but because enough people actively organize and work towards changing them, I found it important to contribute to such a form of self-organization that the Leibniz PhD Network represents. I had no specific goal in mind when joining the Steering Group other than contributing to strengthening the still young Network and increase its visibility among both the Leibniz doctoral researchers and the Leibniz Association in general.

What kind of advice do you have for your successors?

Pablo Fook
2018/2019 Section D spokesperson

As we know, the Leibniz Association consists of 95 institutes in 5 sections. It means that across the Leibniz Association we have a wide range of working areas as well as a variety in the size of the institutes and number of Doctoral Researchers (DRs) in each unit., i.e. from less than 5 to over 200 DRs. Therefore, this diversity shows the importance of keeping the Leibniz PhD representatives and, respectively, all DRs informed about the Leibniz PhD Network initiatives and policies to improve the working conditions of the DRs and strength our network.

The 4th Leibniz PhD Network General Assembly at the PIK!

Around 100 doctoral researcher representatives from around 70 Leibniz institutes and research museums met this this fall in Potsdam to exchange experiences, to network, to electthe new steering committee (SC), and decide on  the future our network. To get the full picture, read on!

Easy start into tough topics

Up on a hill with the promising name Telegraphenberg only 20 minutes from Potsdams monumental center, we ourselves in a kind of parallel world, where all was about science and now that we were there on science policy as well. This year’s General Assembly (GA) of the Leibniz PhD Net was hosted in September (25th to 27th) by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). With the good tradition of BBQ and social activities we kicked it-off and spend a lovely evening chatting, grilling and getting to know each other.

Those easy vibes turned into productive discussions on the second day. But first things first: The day started with a warm welcome by Prof. Ingo Bräuer, PIKS Head of Science Communication and Transfer and our very committed spokespersons Katharina Willenbücher and Jonathan Stefanowski. To our pleasure Prof. Debora Weber-Wulff (HTW Berlin) gave a keynote on misuse of power in academia and whistle-blowing. Her rousing speech led to a long discussion on the challenges doctoral researchers (DRs) face during their career and how to deal with them. Tough topic that a lot of members of the network want to see changed and are working towards it. Inspired for change we went into the “World Cafe” session during which we discussed the positions and new tasks of the working groups (WG) of our network.

warm welcome by Prof. Ingo Bräuer, PIKS Head of Science Communication and Transfer

Votes, votes, votes

On the second day we voted on changes in the Standing Rules and the new SC for the term 2019/2020. The new spokespersons are Anja Jahn (GWZO) and Jacob L. Gorenflos López (FMP), the new treasurer is Antoine Verrière (MfN), the new spokesperson for section A is Annika Diekmann (DBM), the new spokesperson for section B is Irene Broer (HBI), the new spokesperson for section C is Kristine Oevel (FMP), the new spokesperson for section D is Suyuan Chen (ISAS) and the new spokesperson for section E is Guilherme Abuchahla (ZMT). Congratulations!  Inspired by the spirit of the GA and SC 2018/2019, the eight newly elected members are looking forward to carry on the work of the year to come.

presentation of the new steering commitee (from left to right): Jacob Gorenflos (Network Spokesperson), Suyuan Chen (Section D Spokesperson), Annika Diekmann (Section A Spokesperson), Guilherme M. O. Abuchahla (Section E Spokesperson), Antione Verriere (Treasurer), Irene Broer (Section B Spokesperson), Anja Jahn (Network Spokesperson).

Setting up a long term agenda

But there were more decisions to undertake tackling the question which topics the network should focus on most in the upcoming year. Staring into the abyss of climate change and being hosted by one of the leading research centers on this topic 56.3% of the doctoral representatives voted that “greening the institutes” is a very or extremely relevant topic. This was topped by preventing power abuse, which a whopping 56.2% of you consider it to be extremely relevant and 24.7% to be very relevant. Again, this topic that touches us all. You are not alone! The N² Network (us co-working with our friends from Max-Planck and Helmholtz)  has published a paper on the prevention of power abuse. If you feel threatened you can contact your local PhD representative or Ombudsperson for help. In an overarching vote on all the topics discussed during the GA the improvement of the contractual situation and mental health were ranked second and third in the list of most important issues (see image below). So the order to the new SC seems clear: improved contract situations, better options to address mental health and power abuse issues and more sustainability. We are excited to see how far we get!

Results of the voting for a long term agenda of the Leibniz PhD Network

Any last words before?

A big thank you goes to the organizers of this GA: the SC of 2018/19, with a special emphasis of their spokespersons Katharina Willenbücher and Jonathan Stefanowski,  and additionally Aman Malik.

The 5th Leibniz PhD Network General Assembly will be hosted by the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education at the University of Kiel (IPN) from 1st to 2rd October 2020. See you there!

Implementation of Good Scientific Practice

Do you know the guidelines for good scientific practice (GSP) of the German Association of Sciences (DFG)? Do you know that supervision is explicitly a part of GSP? Or that the guideline itself states that the implementation must be ensured by the organizations? If yes, well done! Many scholars, on every possible career step in academia are not aware on how good science should be conducted. This is the conclusion of a World Café table that was moderated by the board members Jonathan Stefanowski (Leibniz PhD Network) and Tim Lienig (Helmholtz Juniors) at the UniWiND Symposium in Freiburg (Breisgau).


Call for Participation: PhD Survey 2019

The Leibniz PhD Network is currently running a survey on the working conditions of doctoral researchers in the Leibniz Association. Here, we highlight why it is important for you to participate and how your contribution helps to improve the overall situation.

Why should I participate in the survey?
The Leibniz PhD Network represents all doctoral researchers of the Leibniz Association. With your participation you have the chance to inform anonymously about your local situation. The more information is collected in the survey, the more precise are the evidence-based measures we propose. This information further serves as a strong base for any improvements.


Presenting the Leibniz PhD Network at your institute

A presentation for representatives in order to introduce the Leibniz PhD Network

For newly elected representatives it is sometimes difficult to gather all relevant information on their own institute and even more on the Leibniz PhD Network. In order to shorten this process and in addition to our Infos for Representatives section, the WG Communication produced a presentation for representatives in collaboration with the Steering Group. It contains relevant information on the structure, the survey, the working groups, and events.