Participants at the CIVICA doctoral conference 2021

Facilitating exchange: The first CIVICA Research Doctoral Conference


Fifteen PhD candidates from across the alliance met at the EUI for a training conference on how to prepare for the job market.

CIVICA Research, a joint research and innovation strategy of the CIVICA members, has delivered on one of its promises: bringing together PhD candidates from across the alliance and helping them prepare for the academic job market.

On 15-17 December, the EUI brought together 15 doctoral researchers and 21 faculty members from the eight CIVICA partner institutions for a total of eight sessions, all geared towards preparing early-stage academics for success in finding jobs in academia upon the completion of their doctoral degrees.

In addition, given that demand far exceeded the seats available for an on-site event, the organisers expanded the reach of the conference by opening up two sessions on academic publication to remote participants, which drew approximately 100 remote participants each.

Identifying needs and demonstrating practices

Dr Robin Markwica, a co-convenor of the conference from the EUI and the Hertie School, reported that the organisers had taken an innovative approach to planning the event, starting from the needs and preferences that participants had previously indicated on a questionnaire.

As a result, the sessions, which ranged from how to write an effective research proposal to how to do a job interview to how to publish a PhD dissertation as a book, were extremely well-received by the group.

For Mihai Gavrilescu, a third-year PhD candidate in Communication Sciences at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA), a session on planning one’s academic career was the training element he found most fascinating. “It opened new perspectives for me in terms of future evolution and answered most of my questions regarding the obstacles and challenges in academia,” he stated.

An insider’s view

Other participants appreciated the opportunity to ask questions and hear about the experiences of current post-docs and early career professors from a range of universities and fields.

Flavia Canestrini, a PhD candidate in History at Sciences Po who has just started her job search, explained: “I think it was very helpful to have young professors come and share their own experiences in the academic job market by also showing us their motivation letters or job talk presentations. It allowed us to learn in practice how to approach the job market and present ourselves and our research.”

Navya Pandit, a PhD candidate in Business Administration and Management at Bocconi University, remarked: “Interacting with speakers in different stages of their academic career, and from varied disciplines and academic traditions offered me and the rest of the participants an insight into the mechanics of academic life. Coming to the conference, we all wanted to know more about what the life of an academic entails and we were rewarded with a deeply rich insider’s view of the academic world.”

Constructive engagement: building new networks

Building bridges and connecting academics across the alliance’s institutions is a defining objective of CIVICA Research, and the Florence conference has served those aims.

“I was absolutely delighted that every single one of the conference participants was ready to engage constructively with the speakers and with each other, and to contribute their own unique perspectives,” said Robin Markwica. “This resulted in fruitful and enriching discussions about academic practice from a broad range of cultural vantage points. I was also very pleased to see that the participants quickly made friends with each other and formed a tight-knit group. After all, one of the main purposes of the conference was to help develop a community of CIVICA PhD candidates.” 

Flavia Canestrini confirmed the organisers’ impressions, stating: “I appreciated the small, interdisciplinary, and diverse group of people attending it, which gave me the opportunity to interact with other fields of study in a transnational network. As a historian, I found it particularly enriching to learn about new research and grant opportunities beyond my subfield.”

CIVICA Research brings together researchers from eight leading European universities in the social sciences to contribute knowledge and solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. The project aims to strengthen the research & innovation pillar of the European University alliance CIVICA. CIVICA Research is co-funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. To stay up to date with CIVICA Research developments and opportunities, subscribe to the newsletter.

Written by Jackie Gordon (EUI)

Photo credit: Camille Bou

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