Not too long ago, somebody took stock of the way things are going for PhDs in VCR. Turns out, nobody’s ever done anything on that before, let alone kept track of whether anybody actually gets their PhD after being here for 4 years. Or being on lone from a university. Very interesting situation, to say the least. It also dawned on some of us that there is a very real need for representation of post-docs & PhDs. There’s quite a lot of us, but we’re also quite scattered, meaning that as a whole it’s difficult to find us.

Additionally, there are no guidelines for managers from VCR on how to judge us, or use us. This brings some very skewed experiences and expectations from both sides. Mind, managers are usually not supervisors, and might not have a very firm grasp on what exactly you’re doing (content-wise). All of them have gotten their own PhD, but that doesn’t mean that it’s in your area.

While all this was going on, the crisis hit, and so were our salaries. When I started (in 2005), I was promised a steady increase in gross salary every year, and now this wasn’t going to happen. This wasn’t communicated very properly, so quite some people were upset. Upset enough to take action, so now we have a committee / community set up, and a letter sent to the HR department with some of the issues that people mailed us.

One of the very real issues is orphanage. A typical PhD lasts about 4 years, but a lot of projects in VCR only last for about 2 – how do you deal with that? What if you didn’t see it coming? What if your supervisor took a new job and now you need to get a new supervisor, but this person isn’t involved in the project? All these are very valid questions, but they’re dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and unless you happen to have some personal experience it’s rather hard to come by information on how to handle this situation. One of the things the committee aims to do is making sure managers have some sort of guideline on how to deal with this. Not only managers, also (prospective) supervisors, and obviously the newly minted PhDs and post-docs.

Now I’m wondering, which other kind of information should be in guidelines for wannabee supervisors of PhDs?