Survey Group

Survey Group

The PhDnet conducts annual surveys with current doctoral researchers (DRs) within the Max Planck Society (MPS). These surveys provide an invaluable body of data that allows the PhDnet to make informed decisions about the future course and goals for the DRs and our relationship to the MPS General Administration.

What we do and why the survey is important:

Each year, we assess the status quo working conditions of doctoral researchers (DRs) within the Max Planck Society (MPS) to understand whether and (if so) how they could be improved. This is not only important for the PhDnet’s own work (e.g. when deciding which offers to make and which support to give to DRs), but it also carries weight in the relationship with the MPS General Administration.

The PhDnet is closely involved with commissions and committees that will affect the direction of the MPS and hence the current and future situation of DRs. These include regular meetings with the MPS General Administration, with the Section Chairs, and with influential people external to the MPS.

For the voices of DRs to be heard, we must present reliable statistics which back up our positions. In the past, the survey has been integral to many improvements for DRs, including raising the DRs’ payment from 50% to 65% of TVöD and raising the number of holidays from 20 to 30 days within the doctoral employment contract (the “Fördervertrag”). The survey also helped to increase awareness of DRs’ mental health.

In short: the survey helps us to help you.

We always welcome new members - so please get in contact with us if you want to join!

How the group works:

We are a rather big group of DRs from all kinds of scientific fields bringing together our expertise and skills to ensure a high quality of our survey. In general, we form subgroups for the different steps involved in designing and conducting the survey as well as analysing and writing up the survey results. However, some of us also stay on board for all substeps.

Collecting ideas - This year’s survey focus

In the past, the PhDnet surveys focused on assessing the DRs’ working conditions, supervision, career development, good scientific practice, and family planning (2017 and 2018) as well as mental health and power abuse related issues (2019). For the 2020 PhDnet survey, we are especially interested in occurrences of discrimination and microaggression when doing a PhD and how this relates to our other measures of perceived working conditions and satisfaction.

Survey design

While some sections usually remain very similar to previous years’ surveys in order to facilitate comparability across years, new questions are added to tackle the questions of interest relating to the survey’s focus. We always welcome new ideas as to how the focus of future surveys should be set, so that we can even better understand how the DRs' working environment could be improved further.

Survey conduction

After designing the survey, we collect updated email lists from all institutes, and send out the link for survey participation.


The analysis involves a multitude of statistical approaches. Apart from descriptive statistics, we also assess selected relationships via correlation and regression analyses. Our analysis team is a very diverse team, with regard to not only the programming languages, but also the research fields. We have biologists, physicists, social scientists, and data scientists bringing their comprehensive knowledge and opinions into the analysis process.

Report writing

As soon as all necessary analyses and graphs for this year’s survey are completed, we start writing up the report. The report will be handed to the MPS General Administration and shared with all DRs. Institute-specific reports are also available upon request (and as long as the participation of the individual institute is high enough to allow for full anonymity of the survey results).

Anything else to add?

If you have questions regarding the reports or if you're interested in joining the team, contact us here.

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