Steering Group Agenda 2016

by the Steering Group

March 21, 2016

The Steering Group 2016 presents their agenda for the upcoming year. It builds upon four pillars to advance doctoral training conditions.

A. Network

One of the major goals of this year’s Steering Group is to increase the strength and outreach of our network within academia and industry. Within the Max Planck Society (MPS), we first and foremost want to support the PhD Representatives elections at all institutes. We build on strong support from the General Administration and are currently establishing an electronic voting system. Moreover, we reached out to the General Works Council and to the sections’ Spokespersons of the Scientific Staff Representatives. Outside of the MPS, we already started establishing close connections with junior researchers from the Leibniz Association and support them in establishing their own network. Despite, we want to strengthen our collaborations with other major PhD networks (Helmholtz JuniorsEurodoc Promovierenden-Initiative , etc.). Additionally, many networks have been founded at universities in the last years. In the future, we want to create a federal network of these networks.

B. Compensation guidelines

Last year we could celebrate a great success, when the Max Planck Society announced that the future compensation of doctoral candidates will base on employment contracts (Kilpatrick et al., 2015). However, we do not want to stop here: These contracts do not  follow the collective bargaining agreement (TVöD) and in particular require working full-time for the PhD while offering part-time compensation only.

As doctoral candidates, we are in the first phase of our scientific career and are working full-time to advance science and human knowledge - also to the advantage of the Max Planck Society itself. This contribution should be recognized properly - also financially - like that of any working person. Full-time employment contracts that pay for only half the time are not a fair compensation - not even in science and not even for PhD students. We claim that doctoral candidates have to be employed by TVöD contracts as the only possible method of compensation.

C. Equal opportunity

Science is an extremely competitive environment in which individuals get frequently disadvantaged or excluded due to implicit biases and discrimination based on nationality, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, chronic diseases, etc. Unequal opportunities lead to a loss of diversity and talent. This sacrifices what science needs to be good in: generating new knowledge. At the last General Meeting in November 2015, the Equal Opportunity Group was founded to raise awareness of (implicit) biases and discrimination, e.g. through dedicated seminars, and to provide safe spaces and platforms for people in their PhD phase who experience inequality and/or want to fight it. The EO group is also PhDnet’s think tank to develop well-informed proposals for improving the status quo (e.g., contract durations should reflect health challenges and visa requirements should not be an obstacle to employing foreign qualified researchers) and for creating a non-discriminatory environment.

D. Career perspectives

Currently less than 10 percent of PhDs can stay in science. This should not be something given (Interview 2015 with MPS President in DIE ZEIT), but a challenge. The current  debate about Max Planck Society’s postdoctoral phase recommendations on maxNet  shows the need for reforming career tracks in the German science system. We need more tenured positions and clear career perspectives via tenure-track positions. We will engage in this debate, also on the federal level. In any case, not all scientists will stay in science forever. That is why we want to improve the transition from science to industry. In 2016, we will, therefore, continue Max Planck PhDnet Career Fair instituted last year.

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