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International IST Doctoral Program

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ISTScholar (International IST Doctoral Program)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2020-09-30

The ISTScholar programme offers PhD training in biology, neuroscience, computers science, mathematics, physics and related interdisciplinary areas. The overarching goal is to produce intellectually broad, curious, open-minded scientists who are able to approach problems from multiple angles.

ISTScholar, and its PhD programme, is designed according to the model of North American Graduate Schools. It offers a customized path for each PhD student, taking into account the student’s previous academic background and leveraging an individual’s potential. The curriculum has a strong focus on interdisciplinary training, promoting not only depth and breadth of knowledge in a particular research area, but encouraging students to think across the boundaries of disciplines and to cooperate with different kinds of scientists. The duration of the program is four to five years, typically four years for graduates with a Master’s degree and five years for graduates with a Bachelor’s degree. The language of the program is English.
In the first period, we launched the first two calls of the programme. This involved developing the necessary organizational structures, such as the selection committee, compiling the call information for the applicants and publishing those on the newly developed programme website, as well as designing and distributing various dissemination materials and starting communication measures using different channels.

During the second period, we launched the third and final programme call, but also focused on improving and adapting the core curriculum and implementing a conflict management system.

In total, 82 fellows (from over 3600 eligible and complete applications) were hired as part of the ISTScholar program.

The first research articles were published during the second reporting period and we expect the numbers to rise steadily as ISTScholars are maturing scientifically and start finishing their graduate studies over the coming years.
ISTScholar pursues three main goals, which are not limited to the actual participants of the program. These are:

• Educate a new generation of scientists
• Enhance the employability of its alumni
• Develop a responsible leadership

ISTScholar took concrete steps to improve the quality of the doctoral education at the institute and has enhanced the overall working conditions of all scientists at IST Austria. We have used the framework and additional funds to further improve our activities, such as the Career Development Program, implemented - based on the recommendations of the Advisory Board - an institution wide Conflict Management Program, and intensified dissemination activities to bridge the gap between scientists and the public.

On a scientific level, all aspects of the ISTScholar programme were reviewed and improved on an annual basis with the support of the Advisory Board. The Advisory Board looked at the curricular components, supervision arrangements, the application requirements and selection process, the adequacy of the scholarship offers and program administration, and the career development opportunities for the scholars. Two working groups were established to address the recommendations of the Advisory Board: one on the ongoing development of the core curriculum and another one looking at supervision arrangements in general. These working groups on curricular developments will remain active even after the formal end of ISTScholar. To ensure continuity we are in the process of establishing new advisory board, which will report to the Scientific Board of IST Austria.

One of the recommendations of the Advisory Board was the introduction of a new institute wide conflict management system. The system was officially announced in May 2019 and established new positions such as the Good Practice Officer and Trusted Advisers, identified various contact persons, as well as clearly spelled out formal and informal paths of conflict mitigation.