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Supervision Strategy

The ambitious aims mentioned above can hardly be reached within the desired time frame (GER 3 years, CAN 4-5 years) within a normal graduate program. Therefore, we will implement a thorough supervision concept that comprises a supervision committee and some administrative measures in addition to the standard regulations for a PhD phase and thesis.

Supervision Committee (SC)

The probably most important measure is that every student will have her/his own local supervision committee as soon as she/he enters the TAGOE and has chosen a research group. This committee consists of the PhD advisor (usually a professor, or a habilitated member of the faculty) and another professor from the network but from another discipline as the local scientific supervisor in a shared supervision concept. To complete the SC, a tutor is appointed from the home institution of the PhD student, that assists the student in the beginning of the PhD phase. This tutor will be a junior-level scientist (postdoctoral researcher or PhD candidate in the last year). The tutor should be knowledgeable in the field of research and help to introduce the student to the project, which is of utmost importance at the beginning of the PhD.

Mentoring Concept

The mentor will provide guidance and moderation independent from the scientific supervisors, and is thus not a member of the supervision committee. The mentor is not necessarily knowledgeable in the research field of the student and not directly involved in the PhD project. Meetings between the mentor and the student are strictly confidential. The meetings should be held twice a year and are documented without detail for quality management. For the German students from UoC and UB, we plan to implement a mentor position at the University of Cologne.

The mentor provides the following support to the students and the IRTG/CREATE:

·       time- and self-management of PhD student, keeps track of accomplishments in order to allow for completion of PhD thesis in 3 years

·       conflict management and moderation if deemed necessary by the student

·       introduction to good scientific practice, guidance to prevent scientific misconduct

·       first contact and support for external students at research residence

·       personal career planning in the last year of a PhD, discussion on career possibilities

·       administrative support for summer schools, meetings, visits at external partners/companies

·       administrative and scientific support for self-assembled student network

·       IRTG/CREATE public relations, advertising at university job fares, conferences

During the time of her/his research residence, the student is guided by the by the local coordinator (usually the PI that hosts them in her/his group) and/or mentor through administrative procedures, to make the transition between the partnering groups as comfortable and efficient as possible. The PI of the collaborative research project from the other country is granted the status of an advisory member to the supervision committee, who is knowledgeable on the progress of the overall project. In this way the research project of each student is supervised by a German and a Canadian PI.

Graduation Committee (GC)

It is important to note, though, that the supervision committee might not necessarily be identical with the graduation committee, since traditionally each university has its own regulations regarding doctorate degree graduation, which have to be obeyed, of course. Whenever possible, however, the collaborative PIs from the other country should play at least an advisory role in the final exam.

Administrative measures

After 8 weeks of orientation (preparatory phase), the prospective student should file a project proposal on her/his PhD project. This proposal needs to contain

·       the scientific questions to be addressed within the project,

·       the methods utilized to achieve these goals,

·       the work to be done during the research residence at the partnering institute, as well as

·       a time management structure (e.g. Gantt Chart) for the duration of 3 years. The latter should contain statements on milestones to be achieved after each year.

The project then formally starts after an oral kick-off presentation with the agreement of the PI and Co-PI on the project and the filed supervision agreement. This written agreement constitutes the rights and responsibilities of the PhD advisor, the Co-PI and the PhD student. A formal supervision agreement can be found in Appendix x. The supervision committee monitors whether the rights and responsibilities are fulfilled.

Besides periodic presentation of research results within the group, the student agrees to generate a written project assessment report every 6 months. This document contains the overall project progress, achieved milestones as defined in the project proposal, as well as the further research plan until the next project assessment. The report will feature a standardized front page containing the name of the student and PhD project, supervisors, and signatures of the student and the PIs on the content of the report, but no actual data or disclosure of results. The scientific coordinator of the IRTG collects these pages for quality management purposes and supervises the timely generation of the reports.

The contents of the reports help the supervisor committee to keep track of the achievements of the student and to assess measures for a timely finalization of the thesis. From our experience, the additional effort by the students to structure and report on their research is typically overcompensated by the significantly shorter time needed to structure the PhD thesis and research papers.

Altogether, in order to reach the ambitious goals of our initiative, we propose the following schedule for our PhD program.