PNN PhD Survey: Asking the relevant questions PNN needs your input to improve the situation of PhDs in the Netherlands!

We are aware that the coronacrisis may have a big impact on your PhD trajectories. PNN is currently working very hard to find solutions for these corona-related problems. However, also without the corona-related problems, PhDs may experience other problems as well. It is one of PNN’s core aims to improve the situation of PhDs, and therefore we want to identify and quantify these problems.

Therefore, we want to ask you to let us know what is going well and what is not going well in your PhD trajectory in the PNN PhD Survey! This survey also covers topics that are usually not addressed in PhD surveys, but are crucial to improve the situation of PhDs. PNN will handle the data confidentially, so you can feel free to share all concerns you might have. 

The more PhDs fill in the survey, the better PNN will be able to address your problems and to convince policy makers to make changes! We therefore call on everyone who is currently working on their PhD project, regardless of contract type or institution, to fill in this survey!

On top of that, by participating in the survey, you can opt in for a lottery to win one of two Career Coaching Sessions with a professional career coach!

You can fill in the survey here!

Survey PhD candidates in the University Medical center

Since the problems arising from COVID-19 for research in the UMCs can be distinct from those in other academic settings, a seperate survey is available.

We would love to hear what kind of problems you are confronted with. so we can use this information to advocate your needs and interests to policy makers.

Fill out the survey here.

Reservations about critical review PhD education experiment

Today, the Ministery of Education, Culture and Science published the critical review (in Dutch) of the interim evaluation of the PhD Education Experiment. We regret that this review seems far from critical to us. We have serious reservations about the conclusions and research questions of this study.

First of all, we find it very strange that the reviewers can give the interim evaluation a stamp of approval, while at the same time concluding that a. It cannot be ruled out that there is a financial motive for participation in the experiment (which is not permitted according to the Besluit Experiment Promotieonderwijs), b. the definition of displacement was such that the conclusion was fixed in advance, and therefore could not be properly investigated, and c. the interim evaluation has wrongly concluded that scholarship PHDs experience more freedom than employee PhDs. These are wrong conclusions of the interim evaluation that have coloured the entire interim evaluation, in favour of the University of Groningen and to the detriment of the scholarship PhDs.

Secondly, we deeply regret that the researchers did not pay any attention to the creation process of the research. It is precisely in that creation process that problems have arisen that may have influenced the results of the interim evaluation. PNN offered to explain its objections to the reviewers, and expressed the hope that the reviewers would also take into account the problems in the creation process of the interim evaluation, but that hope has proved in vain: the reviewers have focused purely on the text of the interim evaluation and the statements of the conductors of the interim evaluation.

The text of the interim evaluation does not mention the, in the eyes of PNN problematic, creation process. It is not described that the individuals interviewed by the researchers were selected by one of the experiment’s main stakeholders and proponents: the Dean of Graduate Schools. Nor is it described that this dean urged these interviewees to be positive about the experiment. These issues have been repeatedly addressed by PNN, including in the media, and were therefore well known. These problems actually prompted this investigation into the quality of the interim evaluation. It is therefore extremely strange that these problems were not part of this critical review.

PNN therefore wonders how this could possibly have happened. It seems hard to believe that, despite all the times that PNN has raised these issues and the media have written about these problems, these issues have been overlooked by the reviewers. It appears as if a conscious choice has been made not to include these problems in the investigation or in the research assignment.

Even if the interference from Groningen is not taken into account, it is strange that the reviewers come to their final conclusion. Actually, there is also scientific research that concludes the exact opposite about the same interim evaluation. Prof. Rob van Gestel, professor of Law at Tilburg University, concludes in his article (in Dutch) that the interim evaluation is not up to standard and insufficiently meets the objectives of the experiment, and that the researchers of the interim evaluation are not very critical of it. According to him, the researchers also often include normative positions in the interim evaluation, while these are not substantiated or are incorrect. How is it possible that he does notice these issues, but that the reviewers who carried out the research on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science overlook this?

What the ministry does not seem to realize, is that the scholarship PhDs are the victims. In their manifesto, they have clearly shown that there are major problems with the experiment: a loud and clear signal against the rosy picture that the interim evaluation paints. By not taking a good look at the quality of this interim evaluation, the ministry is abandoning the scholarship PhDs and condemning a new cohort of scholarship PhDs to the same problems.

Broad collaboration on corona-related problems of PhD candidates

Due to the corona crisis, many PhD candidates encounter problems for various reasons.  PNN is currently collaborating with PostdocNL, VSNU, NFU, NWO and ZonMw to find good solutions and to compensate PhD candidates for any delays they incur. In this statement (in Dutch – English version follows later) we set out the joint objectives of this collaboration. PNN is confident that this collaboration will lead to generous, tailor-made compensation for PhD candidates. In the coming weeks, the statement will be further elaborated upon, taking into account the major differences between research areas but also differences between types of PhD trajectories.

Previously, PNN has published its own statement regarding PhD trajectories in times of Corona. Our chair Lucille Mattijssen explained the recommendations of PNN to the Higher Education Press. Many of these recommendations have been incorporated into the joint statement. For example, universities are urged to ensure that health does not have to be subordinated to research, but that existing research can be continued at an appropriate time. Universities are also encouraged to offer PhD students the choice between a digital defense and postponement of the defense as much as possible.

Do you have a personal, corona-related problem that you would like to share with us, please email  and we will include it in our further conversations!