Promotion of Young Researchers at the IRS

No 3 | September 2013

Subsequent to the completion of their university studies, some graduates specialised in spatial sciences make the decision to remain in academia by aiming for a doctoral degree. The IRS considers itself an attractive alternative to completing a PhD solely at a university. Interdisciplinary research contexts, flexible time budgets and well-structured support for doctoral candidates provide a good basis both for a well-founded dissertation and developing an academic career.

Be it economic geography, sociology, history, planning or political sciences university graduates of various disciplines have the option to pursue further their research interests, subsequent to the completion of their studies, by taking up employment as a research assistant at the IRS and, on this basis, embarking on a doctoral project. Usually working part-time, these researchers are involved in research projects financed from the IRS budget or third-party funds. This offers them the chance to reflect upon their own intellectual approaches against the background of the IRS’s interdisciplinary approach to socialscientific spatial research.

PhD students are supported in a structured process that also comprises closely assisting young scholars during their orientation phases. As a first step, the doctoral candidates seek out the subject of their doctoral thesis by sketching, partly discarding and honing the main questions and themes, before finally drafting an exposé. As soon as the decision to embark on a doctoral project is settled, and the research topic as well as the supervising higher education institution have been found, the institute’s director and the doctoral candidate usually sign a mutual doctoral agreement. This agreement specifies some general conditions and formally confirms the PhD student status of the doctoral candidate. “The most important elements of this agreement include questions related to working time organisation, leave from normal work duties during the writing-up phase or financial means provided by the institute”, says Dr. Gabriela Christmann, currently head of the IRS doctoral colloquium. “Within the confines of their project commitments, doctoral candidates may organise their time budget in a flexible way and fall back on the options of working in blocks or utilising leave periods.”

Furthermore, the doctoral agreement offers the opportunity to participate in voluntary mentoring programmes with one of the IRS’s senior researchers. It encourages the young scholars to commit themselves to the agenda of internationalisation and supports participation in advanced training programmes throughout the entire doctoral phase. The training concept foresees a three-year cycle, which, ideally, each doctoral candidate is expected to fully complete. It contains three advanced training courses per year that cover predominantly the fields of theories, methods and professional skills. “The internationalisation support of doctoral students at the IRS has become increasingly important, too”, says Christmann. “By means of guest stays co-funded by the institute, workshops with renowned researchers from abroad linked to the IRS international lecture and through their participation in international graduate schools, PhD candidates become acquainted with differing perspectives and research contexts. This provides them the opportunity to build up a network that will be of great importance for their further career progression.”



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  • Perspectives for Postdoctoral Researchers: Interview with Dr. Suntje Schmidt