Language in Interaction aims at teaching and training the next generation of leading scientists in its field of research.
An important goal of our research consortium is to provide an optimal educational environment for all junior scientists. To achieve this goal, an Educational Team (ET) has been formed which meets twice a year and consists of the representatives of the graduate schools with central contributions to the PhD training programme:
- Donders Graduate School for Cognitive Neuroscience (DGCN)
represented by Dr. Femke Maij (coordinator)
- International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences (IMPRS)
represented by Dr. Kevin Lam (coordinator)
- Netherlands Graduate School for Linguistics (LOT)
represented by Prof. dr. Henriette de Swart (director)
- Graduate Programme in Logic (GPiL)
represented by Dr. Raquel Fernandez Rovira (coordinator)
- Netherlands Research School for Information and Knowledge Sytems (SIKS)
represented by Prof. dr. Paul de Bra (scientific director) and Dr. Richard Starmans (managing director)
The ET is responsible for coordinating and aligning their existing training programs, for monitoring the progress of the training of our PhD candidates, for preparing educational activities and discussing other educational issues. In addition, the ET intensifies the contacts between the different participating schools offering them the opportunity to exchange experiences and discuss good practices. Thus, the ET offers a platform from which both our partner schools and our PhD candidates can benefit. From this new initiatives can emerge that transcend our consortium.
Monitoring progress and quality
For their training programme, all PhD candidates have to obtain at least 18 ECs where a certificate is required, which is common practice in the graduate schools connected to LiI. To ensure optimal training and supervision of our PhD candidates, a Training and Supervision Plan (TSP) is drafted as an integral part of the PhD employment contract. This system ensures structured project planning, supervision, mentoring, and evaluation. For each PhD project the deliverables in line with the set up of the individual research project are described in a standardized fashion, using the existing TSPs of the different graduate schools in which our PhD candidates are enrolled. In addition to the standard yearly checkpoints employed by all our partner schools, progress of all our PhD candidates is audited by the ET of the consortium twice a year, based on the information provided by the PhD candidates and the graduate schools.
To enable optimal and individualized curricula for our PhD candidates, the already existing training programs at our partner schools were integrated under the responsibility of our ET. For the larger part (i.e. excluding a few obligatory courses at the embedding graduate school) all LiI PhD candidates are allowed to compose their own educational programme and to participate in courses of all partner schools without additional costs. These include disciplinary, technical and soft skill courses.
Under the supervision of the ET, an overview of all available courses offered under this scheme was made available to our PhD candidates.
Our PhD candidates are affiliated to many different institutes, graduate schools and research groups. A PhD platform was created to make sure that they also function as a group on the consortium level. To enable this platform, various activities are organized.
In conjunction with our consortium meeting (every two months), a separate PhD meeting is organized on the same day. The PhD candidates themselves are responsible for the content and organization of these meetings, under the supervision of two coordinating postdocs. Meetings are used for general information transfer, updating one another on the status of projects, exchange experiences, and discuss good practices. Next to these structural PhD meetings, our PhD candidates initiate their own activities in the intervening months. They are offered possibilities to invite PIs from the consortium for informal, interactive sessions and/or visit the different institutes (and their lab facilities) of the consortium.
Every year, our ET organizes a PhD retreat. This concerns a full day targeting a specific topic, in which a team-building component is included. Topics are determined by the ET based on its own experience and after consultation of our PhD candidates on their specific needs. In July 2015 the topic of our PhD retreat was "Feedback to Feedforward; on giving and receiving feedback in a constructive way."
Workshops on “Language Evolution and Diversity” (30-31 October, 2014), “Reappraising the role of linear structure in language” (14-18 September 2015) were organized by the members of our consortium. Both workshops brought together the different questions and methodologies of (inter)national researchers. The aim was to find common ground that connects the different approaches in the respective research fields through interdisciplinary interaction.
In addition, our ET has its own budget to organize activities specifically targeting both internal and external PhD candidates. In November 2015 a workshop was organized specifically targeting the topic of “Valorization” (Nov 16, 2015). This workshop, open to both internal and external participants, was a joint effort between our educational team, and WP7 (utilization) in collaboration with the Dutch Association of Inventors (NOVU).
In 2016 a summer school will be organized on the full spectrum of language research targeting both internal and external PhD candidates. The content of this summer school will be based on the content of the publication (MIT Press, in preparation) "Human Language: From Genes and Brains to Behaviour".
This volume contains a unique overview of what is known about the human language faculty at all levels of organization. The major focus is not so much on language itself, but on ways in which language is instantiated in humans. The volume will contain contributions by the leading researchers in the different fields that study human language from the user perspective. After publication, this handbook will be the most complete, prominent reference book on human language research.
Collaboration with Kennislink
In collaboration with Kennislink.nl, the largest popular science website in the Dutch language area, we developed a theme page "Over Taal Gesproken".
On our theme page, special attention is given to our PhD candidates in the form of articles, interviews and specials. In addition, through our collaboration with Kennislink, two of our PhDs were selected to participate in "Faces of Science". This project, initiated by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and The Young Academy (DJA), is an online platform targeting schoolchildren and students to become acquainted with the world of PhD students and to spark enthusiasm for science. Visitors get a glimpse into the world of the research through videos, blogs and other information posted by the selected PhD candidates.
As Faces of Science specifically targets Dutch PhDs, we have started a comparable initiative on our own theme page called "TaalTalent". This initiative targets our non-Dutch PhDs giving them the opportunity to present their work and working experiences.
As contact with the general public and gaining experience in public outreach events gains more and more importance in academia, our PhDs are pointed out to several (public) outreach events and encouraged to participate. Examples of such events are the Nijmegen Lectures (2014 and 2015), the Nijmeegse Taalmiddag (2015), and the Drongo Festival (2015).
Next to training and teaching our PhD candidates on scientific topics, attention is also paid to broadening their career perspectives by offering them courses and workshops on subjects transcending their scientific work. Specific attention is given to valorization and utilization of scientific outcomes by offering them workshops in combination with the possibility of courses on entrepreneurship, innovation, science communication and science journalism (among others). To further enhance their career perspectives, possibilities to obtain a University Teaching Qualification, and courses and workshops on soft skills are offered.
Under the supervision of the ET, an overview of all available courses offered was made available to our PhD candidates.