PhD Infos

The responsibility of doctoral researcher representatives

As the Working Group (WG) Working Conditions determined doctoral researcher (DR) representatives at Leibniz institutes exist under completely different conditions. However, either appointed or elected (check out the guideline with recommendations and suggestions for a good conduct of elections for Doctoral Representatives), if you are a DR representative of a Leibniz institute or research museum it means you took over the responsibility to represent your DRs at your institute and within the Leibniz PhD Network.

You need to know and represent the interests of the institute’s DRs and this means you serve as a link between the institute’s management, the Leibniz PhD Network (section officers, the steering committee, the working groups) and of course the DRs. Please note that all DRs, not only representatives, are encouraged to contact the active members of the PhD Network directly when questions arise or in order to participate in a working group.

Your role simplified

In general, the DR representative

  1. is a contact person for the doctoral researchers in case of problems concerning the work environment and subsequently provides help to the DRs
  2. promotes exchange between all doctoral researchers
  3. maintains a flow of information to all doctoral researchers

Very few representatives are paid from the institute for their work. (Yes, some do get paid!) Therefore, your time might be limited for this honorary office but there are responsibilities that can not be neglected and some that are optional. Here, we provide suggestions and help to get your work started and prioritize your tasks.

Essential tools

  1. Leibniz PhD Network Mailing List: The Leibniz PhD Network maintains a Mailing List for the most essential information. Subscribe to this list by contacting your section officer. These are the sections and here are the section officers.
  2. Update contact information: Even if you already receive correspondence from the Leibniz PhD Network Mailing List you need to update your section officer on who is the current representative and who has been replaced. This is important so that the section officers maintain an overview on which institutes are active.
    Your institute should also be informed about the new representatives. This can act as a reminder, that this committee exists.
  3. Generic email address: DRs come and go but the management stays. A generic email address in the form of facilitates easy communication for everyone over time. This email address can quickly be generated by your local IT administration and freshly linked when a new representative is taking over.
  4. Get informed: The Leibniz PhD Network WG Communication maintains this weblog instead of a newsletter. You will find all relevant information here. It is important to keep yourself updated on what is currently discussed and which new tools are released by the Leibniz PhD Network. Certainly, you should recall how the Leibniz PhD Network is organized. Read the blog and subscribe on the main page. If Twitter is your preferred way to stay informed follow us. You can also inform your doctoral researchers with this presenation.
  5. Maintain a DR mailing list: You should forward all emails that are send via the Leibniz PhD Network Mailing List to all doctoral researchers. If your institute keeps track of who is a DR you can ask the IT administration to set up a list. If not you will need to create a list yourself; You can ask your personnel department for help. For detailed steps check out the FAQ on the bottom of this site.

When you are in office

  • Information: Distributing the new information provided by the PhD Network to your DRs is your responsibility and key for everyone to stay informed.
  • Get yourself a helping hand! Sharing the work makes everything easier. Advocate to have at least two representatives.
  • Welcome new DRs: In order to maintain a team spirit everyone needs to feel welcome. Therefore, it is essential for the representation to keep track of new DRs and show them around. Your PhD coordinator and the personnel department are optimal candidates for updating this information. When a new DR starts at your institute you should provide all necessary information. Find ways to get informed immediately after the DR starts to work – Find a spot on the routing slip and provide them with an information flyer or welcome booklet.
  • Regular social meetings: Social events not only help making friends but in a safe environment DRs will give feedback on a broad spectrum of issues. Every DR is of course super busy, so organizing such events is always difficult. However, if your social event (meeting at a pub, common coffee break, regular BBQ, Happy Hour) is on the same date always (e.g. 2nd and 4th Thursday each month), people show up even without three reminders up front.
  • Seek cooperation with official staff structures for doctoral researchers, e.g. the doctoral commission, a PhD coordinator, science coordination, workers’ council (Betriebsrat), ombudsman or equal opportunity officer – advocate to get addressed by them and involved in decisions regarding doctoral researchers
  • Workers’ council: You should contact the workers’ council and ask for participation. In the Leibniz Association some representatives are eligible to vote in the council. Try to advocate the importance of including the DR when decisions are due.
  • Institute management: Be present, if your institute’s management does not know you it will be hard to change anything. Often, a short meeting resolves many issues that seemed big.
  • Budget: Social events, seminars, your business trip to the general assembly – Only money makes it happen. The head office of the Leibniz Association supports the work of DR representatives and the directors of the Leibniz institutes are informed by the Leibniz head office about the invitation to the general assembly. Make sure your institute supports your participation and acknowledges your work, too. Otherwise, you will have to fight for every cent.
  • Annual doctoral researchers meeting: Here your successor will be elected. It is your responsibility to organize this meeting and update your DRs.
  • Scientific events: Organize scientific events like seminars or workshops that represent the interests of DRs. Be it graduate schools or your institute, often workshops and seminars do not meet the actual needs.
  • The Leibniz PhD Networks general assembly: You are eligible to vote, and your institute should provide you with the financial support to take this voice. Vote for the steering committee at the annual General Assembly. If financial support is a problem, contact your section officer!
  • Official handover: There comes the day you hand over the responsibility to the next DR. This is a crucial time, make sure all documents, structures and information are transferred and the successor is aware of current issues. As a former representative you should be available for questions that arise after handover.

Optional engagement

  • The Leibniz PhD Network is working hard to get closer to its defined goal to promote exchange among the doctoral researchers of all institutes and improve their working conditions. If you are interested in getting organized with amazing people and have a fun time together, you should join us.
  • Become part of one of our working groups. For this you do not need to be a representative. Simply contact the group or your section officer
  • Get involved and share the information with your colleagues and friends on Twitter, facebook or LinkedIn
  • Visit our events, conferences and assemblies that are specifically designed from DRs for DRs.

Tipps and ideas – An FAQ

I don’t know the doctoral researchers email addresses
  • Find the coordinator at your institute and ask for information. They might not be allowed to share all details but can give connection points
  • Let the representative find a spot on the routing slip to get in direct contact of every new doctoral researcher
  • If a database is present, let it generate a mailing list automatically

A doctoral researcher has problems with a supervisor
  • First of all: Talk informally and follow up if the DR does not contact you again
  • Check: Does the student have a PhD agreement. Act accordingly.
  • Act as a middleman and provide support during confrontation
  • If the problem becomes serious contact the official committees, the staff council or the ombudsman
  • Check: Does your institute have guidelines on good scientific practice? If so act accordingly.
  • To prevent and minimize problems with supervisors, “Supervision agreements” can be helpful. Implement the Leibniz PhD Network supervision agreement at your institute when it becomes available

Minorities face issues at my institute

The doctoral researchers have little in common / do not know each other
  • Organize events (BBQ, Sports event, regular breakfasts etc.). Often the institutes are willing to provide financial support – ask for it.
  • Use low-level entry points: often a joint lunch or breakfast will attract most people

I don’t get any e-mails from the Leibniz PhD Network

  • Contact your section officer

I am afraid of the workload to organize scientific events for doctoral researchers
  • Start with small events and topics that are important to all doctoral researchers, such as scientific writing, time management, data storage and publication, etc.
  • Use resources present at your institutes – e.g. ask a postdoc to talk about writing a dissertation, frame texts; ask a librarian to talk about open science, etc.

I am interested to become a PhD representative but not sure what to expect.
  • Ask the current PhD representatives at your institute for a personal account of their experience
  • Ask your section officer
  • Read this short guide 🙂
  • Believe us – it’s fun.

Independent of the topic – Your feedback is always welcome. Are you missing something here or you want to share what brought the DRs together at your institute?- Feel free to contact the WG Communication.

Acknowledgement: This guide for representatives was partially inspired by the Max Planck PhDnet guidelines for representatives

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