Guidelines for PhD representatives

The PhD representatives serve as a connection between PhDnet officers, organs, and workgroups and the doctoral researchers of their institute, who oftentimes feel not affiliated to the PhDnet or not entitled to contact the PhDnet (both of which is not true of course). The major tasks of a PhD representative are to offer opportunities to optimize the working environment for doctoral researchers and to improve information flow and exchange between doctoral researchers and the PhDnet.

The PhDnet “members” meet once per year at the PhDnet General Meeting to discuss current issues, to report from the activities of the last year and to fix plans for the upcoming year. At these General Meetings, the Steering Group members are elected and the workgroups are formed. It is highly recommended that at least one doctoral candidate of each institute, who doesn’t necessarily need to be a PhD representative, attends this annual meeting.

The PhD representative tasks are split into 1) immediate tasks, which should be done as soon as possible by all new (and old) PhD representatives and 2) task guidelines, which should be followed over the whole term of office of a PhD representative.

Immediate tasks for you as PhD representative are:

  1. PhDnet Mailing List: First, subscribe to the PhDnet Mailing List to receive immediately the latest news from the PhDnet. Please subscribe here:
  2. Update contact information for PhDnet: Second, check if the entry of your institute in the internal list of PhD representatives (link) is still up-to-date! If this is not the case, please inform the PhDnet Secretary group
  3. Your representative e-mail: Third, if not already done by your predecessor and in order to ease communication among future PhD representatives and the PhDnet, please ask your department’s secretary or web admin to set up a common PhD representative e-mail list for your institute (e.g. in the format: phd-representatives (at) This email distribution list should not change when the PhD representative office is handed over to new volunteers, but the new PhD representatives have to be added to this list and the old ones may be removed. Your department's secretary or web admin can also do this! If they refuse to do any of this, please tell us and we will help you!!!
  4. Ideally, you should now repeat immediate tasks 1. and 2. with this common PhD representative e-mail address. This is the most powerful thing you could do for establishing an everlasting link between the PhDnet and all of your institute’s future PhD representatives!
  5. Local mailing list: Also, if not already done by your predecessor, establish an e-mail distribution list for all doctoral researchers at your institute. This eases your work enormously! It can be done by your department's secretary or your web admin as well.

Task guidelines for your term of office include:

  • Newsletters: Distribute newsletters of the PhDnet to all doctoral researchers of your institute. You get them once you signed up on the PhDnet Mailing List mentioned above.
  • new doctoral researchers: Welcome new doctoral researchers at the beginning of their employment within the MPS. It is fundamental that you provide them the necessary information at a point in time when they need it the most. This also integrates them into the social life of the institute from the very beginning. Bringing these benefits to the doctoral researchers is a very important mean to further recruit new volunteers to the active body of the PhDnet. You may meet them or write a welcoming email, providing some information about your institute, the city where your MPI is located, and about the PhDnet. You should maintain contact to the human resources office (Personalabteilung), in order to know about new doctoral researchers and those who have left the institute.
  • regular social meetings: Organize regular informal meetings of fellow doctoral researchers e.g. a monthly doctoral researchers meeting "Stammtisch", or any other form of a regular get-together.
  • be there for the students: Serve as contact person for doctoral researchers matters from outside and within the institute. You may be contacted by doctoral researchers about any issue. You are not responsible for solving each issue on your own, but to also redirect doctoral researchers to your Ombudsperson or Equal Opportunities Officer where necessary. Whenever appropriate and comfortable with, you may also mediate between doctoral researchers and workgroup leaders or directors. You may always seek for help regarding specific issues by contacting the PhDnet. Each MPS section has its PhDnet Section Representative that you may contact. They, as well as the Secretary General can help you if you encounter problems at your institute (contact details to be found here).
  • directorate: Stay in contact with the directorate of your institute on topics concerning doctoral researchers.
  • Betriebsrat: Stay in contact with the workers' council (Betriebsrat) at the institute. Ask for participation in their meetings.
  • Staff: Attend regular meetings of the staff assembly.
  • General Meeting: Attend the annual PhDnet General Meeting to keep up with recent MPS-wide changes.
  • exchange: Establish interdisciplinary exchange with doctoral researchers of other Max Planck Institutes in your city or elsewhere in form of collaborations, workshops, seminars, get-togethers, ...
  • Hubs: Connect to your local group of MPI PhD representatives (a "Hub", since often multiple MPIs are located in the same city or area).
  • seminars: You may contact the Seminars Group of the PhDnet which can help you significantly in organizing a soft skill or scientific seminar and to provide funding for its realization.
  • local administration: Seek for cooperation with your institute's administration. This is a prerequisite for the successful implementation of the goals of a PhD representative and provides mutual benefits for both partners. In general, the PhD representative is providing services, which make a PhD at the given MPI more attractive to all doctoral researchers. This should be a major concern of every administration board and thus, cooperation should not be a problem. However, problems with the administration of some institutes have been reported in the past. This might be due to the fact that the mutualism of such cooperation has not been fully recognized by all involved persons, or there have been misunderstandings concerning the competences of different sections in either party. In any case, the PhD representative should seek for an introductory and/or clarifying discussion with the administration board.
  • handover: One of the most important tasks: Do a proper handover of office with the new PhD representatives when your term of office ends. After the new elections, please take your time for a meeting with the new PhD representatives and give them all important documents and information. Please also try to be available for questions that they may have within the next few weeks/month.

Some institute's PhD representatives took on additional tasks, self-organized and voluntarily. For example:

  • Organization of career-events.
  • Organization of irregular meetings such as BBQs, sports events...
  • In addition to the soft skill seminars and scientific seminars offered by their institute or the PhDnet Seminars Group, PhD representatives self-organized seminars about specific topics of their institute.

If you feel that you'd like to do something new or similar, you are free to go ahead on your own or to contact the PhDnet for help. Also, we are always happy if you tell us about more examples of voluntary additional tasks that you may do.

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