Ideas on how to support PhDs and PostDocs

A while ago I stumbled upon a job advertisement for a position that is dedicated to support PhDs and PostDocs at a large German university. It was one of these moments when you think that maybe you are in the wrong field, because a cascade of ideas came tumbling down. As my capturing infrastructure was in place, I jotted down the ideas I had to improve the support and qualification of PhDs and PostDocs.

As this job was not for me, perhaps someone else can use them (German translation as PDF):

place of communication
  • Organization of presentations with discussions about experiences in science (similar to “Last Lecture”/”Journeys” of the Carnegie Mellon University
  • Blog for experience reports (e.g., conducting experiments, methods, etc.)
  • 1-page-reports as introduction to topics (similar to the “Blitze” at, tagged according to topic/task and discipline
  • Wiki to collect tips/helps, perhaps by using patterns
  • Hosting “social events” to support informal knowledge exchange between disciplines
  • profile pages with short introduction of the PhD/PostDoc (similar to to foster community building at the university
  • using experiences from lab visits, exchange programs, backgrounds at different university, e.g., via experience reports (presentations and blog postings)
  • developing specific courses/support according to PostDoc survey
development of standards to create optimal conditions for research and qualification
  • principle: collect the tasks and necessary conditions on a higher level while respecting the autonomy of the advisers and keeping the individual strengths of the different disciplines
  • writing articles/doing presentations to stimulate a scientific discourse and disseminate best practice
course model about the basics of science
  • science as social process (interests, agenda, peer review, role of the community), perspectives of different disciplines, scientific thinking, critical/skeptical thinking, getting to know different techniques, ethical standards
  • generic content with assistance to transfer the content to one’s own (sub-)discipline
  • blended learning/web services/reviews/follow-up
conceptual development
  • surveys regarding the needs and requirements of current and past PhD students and PostDocs
  • literature research/web research regarding similar/related services
  • experience reports from lab visits/guest professors
  • measuring on different levels (usage, learning, behavior, work results, career paths)