To ensure supervisors are aware of their responsibilities and duties when supervising junior researchers including PhD candidates (further called as junior researchers) and know where to find additional support or guidance.
Expectations of supervisors
Supervisors carry overall responsibility for the research project and/or PhD trajectory of their supervisees. If this responsibility is shared within a supervisory team, it is important to clarify and explicate this for the junior researcher. The supervisor is further expected to enhance a positive learning and research environment for the junior researcher, in which people strive for high standards of research quality, adhere to research integrity and provide space for open communication, creativity, acknowledging mistakes, constructive feedback and personal interest in each other. The supervisor is further expected to act as a mentor, being interested and supportive in the research activities and stimulating creativity while tempering too ambitious plans, and being trustful and empathic regarding personal struggles or circumstances.
More elaboration about the expectations of the supervisors can be found in the Amsterdam UMC Research Code.
- To ensure that the (PhD) research project is based on a well-defined and solid plan, preferably peer-reviewed by research colleagues
- To ensure that responsibilities and expectations are communicated well and clear for all involved parties (in particular the junior researcher)
- To arrange all necessary facilities for the supervised researcher to carry out the research, including access to relevant software and systems and assistance from colleagues and/or support staff if needed
- To provide sufficient time and opportunities for the junior researcher for updates and assistance in the progress, and for giving and receiving constructive feedback, including regular meetings.
- To strive at and maintain an open way of communication with the junior researcher, discussed and ensured by a yearly performance appraisal interview (at least once a year)
- To perform research according to research quality standards and research integrity, and act as an example in this for the junior researcher
PhD mentor - a quick guide
The mentor or supervisor will support and guide as well as stimulate the junior researcher to critically look at and reflect upon learning objectives and outcomes. In the context of personal and scientific development, the mentor should discuss career progress with regard to the junior researchers’ specific goals (research and education), ambitions and interests. The mentor can advise the junior researcher regarding the choices for elective subjects and where necessary offer feedback on research project results, conclusions and ideas. The mentor will also act as mediator should conflicts arise during any phase of the research project and/or PhD trajectory. Confidentiality will be maintained at all times.
Tasks of the mentor
- Read the Training plan/ iTSA at the start of the PhD trajectory, and comment on it if necessary at the first meeting between the junior researcher and the mentor.
- Have a meeting with the junior researcher at least once a year to discuss the progress of the research project, both in terms of scientific output, as well as the PhD training program (competences and skills).
- Read the updated Training plan/ iTSA and comment on it if necessary during the yearly meeting with the junior researcher.
- Be available throughout the year for independent advice in case a problem arises between the junior researcher and the supervisor(s).
- Note: Amsterdam UMC, VU and UvA have appointed experienced scientists, as contact persons in the case of suspicion of scientific misconduct or related matters.
Confidentiality will be maintained at all times.
Guidelines for mentor
Every year, the junior researcher needs to arrange a progress meeting with his/her mentor. Progress and scientific output are discussed. The attendance of the PhD training program components will also be assessed.
Although the content of the meetings will depend on the junior researchers’ needs, several subjects need to be discussed in the meetings. This will help the junior researcher to make the right choices in his/her individual program. These choices are described in the (updated) Training plan which is signed as ‘seen’ by the mentor/ supervisor.
Important questions during mentor meeting
- Is your PhD trajectory progressing as you had expected?
- How would you assess the interaction and communication between yourself and your (co)supervisor(s)?
In light of these two questions, the following example points may be raised
- Reflection on expectations from the PhD trajectory and from the supervisor(s)
- Reflection on end-of-year assessment [jaargesprek] with supervisor
- Reflection on personal ambition & interests
- Combination work and personal life
- Future career plans
- Reflection on achievements in last year
- Reflection on personal strengths and weaknesses (knowledge gaps, specific interests)
- Elective courses and workshops followed to date. Outcome & relevance e.g. in the light of improving weaknesses, technical expertise, future plans etc
- Reflection on Timeline for writing thesis: thesis chapter ideas > chapter titles > start writing.
- Foreseen difficulties
- Update Training plan/ iTSA
Where to find additional support or guidance
See the 'Checklist Starting your PhD’ to go through when starting to supervise a PhD researcher. More details on supervising a PhD researcher can be found in the Doctorate Regulations from the VU or UvA. And see under Download "AMC: handbook PhD supervisor mei 2019"