Survey on the situation of Doctoral researchers in the Max Planck Society

May 16, 2019

There are not many comprehensive datasets allowing conclusions about the status of doctoral education and the shape of the science ecosystem itself. Today we have published the result of a survey, based on 2522 replies from doctoral researchers (DRs) in the Max Planck Society (MPS).

Thereby providing the largest study among DRs in Germany. Therein we investigated who is conducting a PhD project at the MPS as well as the following aspects: good scientific practice, working conditions, supervision, career perspectives, satisfaction, situation of parents, and equal opportunities.

Key results of our main focus good scientific practice are as follows:

  • Only 5 % of DRs have reported scientific misconduct at least once, even though up to 23% witnessed or participated in misconduct. The different categories arranged in order of occurrence: sloppy work > authorship conflicts > data ownership > data manipulation, plagiarism.
  • The ombudspersons are not known to 1/3 of DRs, additionally the neutrality of them is questioned in many instances. Only a minority of DRs has participated in a workshop on good scientific practices.

Further interesting results concern supervision and career perspectives:

  • 2/3 of DRs have a thesis advisory committee and a clear majority indicates positive experiences with their impact on scientific exchange and support in time and project management.
  • A majority of non-German DRs (>45% has a non-German nationality) is undecided where they want to pursue their career, but is tending towards going abroad. This indicated a large group of highly talented scientists, which are available on the job market, when offered the right perspectives and integration.

The detailed analysis of all 84 questions, including a short summary within the introduction, is openly available at ( For further questions and comments you may contact the steering group of PhDnet via .

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