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Early career researchers

The MCCR will actively support young researchers. We believe that any kind of personnel development works best when people feel accepted, trusted, and supported in their academic growth. Any serious approach to this conviction necessarily means developing a strategy for how the MCCR can create a working environment that contributes to the scientific and personal growth of early career doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. Doctoral and postdoctoral researchers will be directly involved in the research processes at the MCCR, either through independent research or through collaboration with senior researchers. As such, early career researchers will be an integral part of all MCCR projects.

Publication-based qualification

Publication-based qualification constitute the cornerstone of our approach to early career support and comprises two central elements:

1. Learning the latest cutting-edge research techniques

Doctoral researchers are enabled to conduct their own research by teaching them the latest cutting-edge techniques of their respective fields in their first qualification phase of up to two years. In cooperation with the University of Mannheim’s support structures, the MCCR will ensure that doctoral candidates receive excellent training, supervision, and support, in particular from the Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences (GESS). The GESS is an interdisciplinary graduate school established through the Excellence Initiative and has become a permanent institution in 2019. In addition to regular scientific evaluations by its academic advisory board, the GESS has been successfully evaluated at the state level. Its principal aim is to train doctoral candidates in the development and application of new quantitative methods which they shall apply to relevant contemporary questions in economics and the social sciences. Both, the MCCR as well as the GESS will encourage and provide funding for conference travel, research visits abroad, workshops and summer schools.

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    Integration into doctoral training programs: For the MCCR, close collaboration with partners and using each partners’ strengths maximize the effectiveness of early career support. This is why we will integrate our doctoral candidates into the Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences (GESS), the central pillar of doctoral training at the University of Mannheim. The GESS is an interdisciplinary graduate school that is organized in three centers: The Center for Doctoral Studies in Business (CDSB), the Center for Doctoral Studies in Economics (CDSE) and the Center for Doctoral Studies in Social and Behavioral Sciences (CDSS). The first two centers offer doctoral programs in business and economics, whereas the CDSS offers programs in political science, psychology and sociology. The success of the GESS is reflected, for example, by placements of graduates at renowned international universities such as Bocconi University, Cornell University, Erasmus University Rotterdam, European University Institute, King's College London, London School of Economics, National University of Singapore, Norwegian School of Economics (NNH), University College London, University of Bonn, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of St. Gallen, University of Vienna, or the Wharton School.

    Mentors and supervisors are chosen by the doctoral candidates. Senior academic staff of the MCCR will be strongly involved in guiding doctoral candidates through their doctoral training. Principal investigators will meet regularly with early career researchers to discuss ongoing research and their dissertation progress. The goal of the graduate school is to train doctoral researchers in the development and application of quantitative methods.

    The concept of the GESS consists of a mandatory core curriculum for doctoral candidates from all three centers consisting of courses from their respective discipline as well as methodological courses in data analysis, analytical theory, and experimental design. This course phase consists of up to two years of courses complemented by small group exercises, tutorials, and research training. In the first year, doctoral researchers have to take a series of core courses in quantitative methods and study various scientific methods and approaches as well as their application to relevant research areas of their respective field. This phase is followed by one year of specialized courses, where candidates are made familiar with substantive applications in their chosen research area. The multidisciplinary aspect of the MCCR is also reflected in the design of the course program. Doctoral researchers from all centers are required to attend at least one field course from one of the other centers.

    Doctoral candidates will receive extensive supervision from the GESS and senior academic staff at the MCCR. At the beginning of the graduate program, the academic directors of the three centers assign each candidate a mentor. The mentor helps the candidate with difficulties during the course program and regularly monitors the candidate’s progress. Toward the end of the first year, candidates select a faculty member as a supervisor who will advise in the development of their doctoral thesis. The supervisor may not necessarily be the previous mentor. In addition to their main supervisor, doctoral candidates also receive regular feedback from other faculty members, from other doctoral candidates in their respective cohort in the GESS, and from their peer group at the MCCR or in compulsory doctoral seminars. These seminars offer candidates the opportunity to present their dissertation work and show their progress toward completing their thesis. In addition to the supervision at the GESS, doctoral candidates will also receive support from principal investigators and other senior academic staff members at the MCCR. Principal investigators will meet regularly with candidates to discuss ongoing research and the candidates’ dissertation progress.

    In addition to the comprehensive course program, doctoral candidates will receive further training through specialized elective methods courses and workshops taught by faculty or guest lecturers and at international summer schools. This opportunity constitutes a complementary element in fulfilling the MCCR’s requirement for a high level of skills in formal theory development and application of quantitative methods. If a MCCR doctoral candidate is interested in a method course not offered by the university, the MCCR will fund participation in external summer schools (for example, Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis, GESIS Summer School in Survey Methodology). We intend to stick to the successful strategy of having a two-year core curriculum to teach methods and develop skills of applying them to research. The integrated approach of complementing coursework with research will contribute to both a smooth research process within the MCCR projects and the success of doctoral candidates in the GESS and their careers.

    The MCCR and GESS will collaboratively offer joint workshops as well. Early career academics will also benefit from external seminars held at the MCCR and the university’s other schools, departments, and institutes as well as GESIS and ZEW. The MCCR will offer a seminar series where candidates are exposed to frontier research presented by a wide range of internationally renowned speakers.

    The transition period from being a student to working as a doctoral candidate is sometimes perceived as challenging and the problems resulting from working isolated from other doctoral candidates shall be counteracted by organizing the doctoral training in the GESS. Through joint courses, workshops, and doctoral seminars, they will get in contact with other doctoral candidates which supports the feeling of belongingness.

2. Integration into research teams

Doctoral and postdoctoral researchers are integrated into research teams where they can benefit from the interaction with renowned scholars and build up a strong publication record. Postdoctoral researchers are encouraged to work more and more independently, to take on more responsibilities and to build up their own profile by publishing in the leading journals of their fields. Postdoctoral researchers can teach courses and hold workshops together with the GESS which will further strengthen the interaction and thus the potential for collaboration between research teams, postdoctoral, and doctoral researchers.

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    Integration into research teams: Our approach for integrating early career researchers into research teams can be summarized with “taking early career researchers seriously” and includes all levels of an academic career, from student assistants to postdocs. We support our early career researchers as they develop as independent researchers, employing a variety of measures which accompany their scientific career. It is our conviction that this independence grows every time when more responsibility for research tasks is taken over and support given when needed. As to that, the complexity of tasks and responsibility shall reflect the level of experience. For early career researchers this is integral for becoming a part of the scientific community.

    The MCCR will encourage early career researchers to assume responsibility within their projects. For example, they will be given the chance to independently manage a specific work package of their project, with the principal investigator supervising and coaching where appropriate. In addition, early career researchers are encouraged to present the results of their respective project at international conferences.

    Early career researchers will be encouraged to apply for MCCR lump sum funds, a measure that will be made available for innovative research ideas. This measure proved to be very successful at the expired CRC 884 and thus it is our intention to make use of this proven measure in the MCCR. Postdocs can apply for funding of additional, innovative projects out of the lump sum, which will be conducted under their leadership. Additional project funds will also be open for doctoral researchers, who can use them for projects of smaller scale. In these additional smaller projects, early career researchers can test, show and improve their research and management skills, for example by making valuable first experiences with supervising student assistants.

    The MCCR will aim at integrating students and/or student assistants at the bachelor’s and master’s level into its research projects and into the research community in general. Student assistants will be actively integrated in specific research projects, helping our principal investigators and young academics with their research – but also developing their own research ideas. Such opportunities for students to participate in research projects will also serve as door-openers for becoming doctoral candidates within the MCCR or in the academic community outside the MCCR.

Postdoc Career Academy

Further, the University of Mannheim commits itself to needs-oriented support for early-stage researchers by providing special guidelines for the promotion of postdocs and junior professors. Based on these guidelines, the university will establish institutionalized support structures for postdoctoral researchers by founding the Postdoc Career Academy “Focus for Postdocs” in October 2023. The academy is intended to support postdoctoral researchers in identifying their own fields of development, setting priorities, and developing themselves according to their career goals. The concept of the Academy takes into account that time is a scarce resource for postdoctoral researchers, especially if there are additional family obligations. Therefore, the offers of the Postdoc Career Academy can be selected individually and tailored to one’s own needs. The Academy will offer four fields of development: personal development, development of research and teaching profile, academic skill development and internationalization. To become aware of their own stage of development in each field and to identify the areas that offer particular potential for development, the Academy provides a specially developed self-assessment form that can be used as a prelude to more intensive career counselling by trained staff of the Academy. In addition to individual counselling the Academy will rely on academic mentoring by experienced professors at the university who act as role models and reflection partners, explain the rules of the game, share their experiences and networks, and support their mentees in career strategic decision-making. Moreover, external trainers will offer workshops on specific topics that invite reflection on one's own role as a scientist, such as science communication or research ethics. The Academy will be open and free of charge for postdocs and junior professors of all disciplines.

Funding and advisory services

A range of funding and advisory services is already available to the university’s early career researchers: They can apply for a starting grant to initiate an own research project or for a bridge funding to bridge the gap between the application for an externally funded project and its projected start. Furthermore, the university offers financial support for the organization of an international conference at Mannheim, for attending a conference abroad or for conducting a research stay abroad. Postdocs wishing to submit a research proposal to an external funding organization will receive comprehensive advice and support from the university’s research funding team. To ensure that scientists do not feel left alone in case of conflict with superiors or colleagues, ombudspersons are available to them who can be called upon as neutral mediators.

Networking: supporting networks, guest researchers, and conferences

Measures which aim at the development of internal and external networks are crucial for early career researchers. Internal events will have the focus on creating a community feeling and establishing cross-project contacts. Both smaller and bigger events like joint lunches, after work events or even tours in the region will help create a community feeling and with a careful design, for example by encouraging families to participate in these events, the diversity within the MCCR will be reflected and allow researchers to get to know each other on a more personal level. This will also help to deal collaboratively with challenges and enjoy successes together. Such a positive environment is supposed to be the foundation for early career researchers to present first and still rough results of ongoing projects in a special internal seminar series, where junior and senior researchers will give constructive and supportive feedback in the early stage of a research project.

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    In addition to the collaboration with the GESS (as outlined above), the MCCR will particularly promote early career researchers by supporting them in presenting their work at international peer-reviewed conferences and publishing it in international peer-reviewed journals. As both master’s and doctoral classes are taught in English and provide students with solid training in formal theory and methodology, the MCCR is able to support its researchers at the very early stages of their career. The MCCR helps them to present their MCCR-related research at major international conferences and to invite guest researchers, which stimulates collaboration between the MCCR guests and early career researchers.

    The MCCR is going to encourage young researchers to organize their own workshops and to invite guests for seminars or long-term visits. Funds for guest researchers and workshops will be advertised to young academics, and the central administration team will help them in all organizational matters. This should enable them to set-up an international network and to promote their own research. Furthermore, it helps them to get new insights and to collaborate with international researchers on specific research projects.

    In order to become a successful researcher, academics have to become acquainted with other research institutions outside Germany. Therefore, the MCCR is going to encourage doctoral and postdoctoral researchers to participate not only in international conferences, to organize workshops or to invite seminar speakers but also to benefit from research stays abroad. Although they are urged to apply for external funding, the MCCR will support them with organizational matters and by covering part of the costs if they are not fully covered by a third party.