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Institut Curie 3-i PhD Program

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IC-3i-PhD (Institut Curie 3-i PhD Program)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

Institut Curie’s IC-3i-PhD program aims to produce top-level scientific knowledge by promoting basic interdisciplinary research to be translated into novel therapeutic avenues for diagnosis and treatment. The ambitious PhD training program consists of interdisciplinary and intersectorial research projects and will offer 35 international PhD positions.

The program will teach PhD/Doctoral Program recipients to be excellent researchers of future; to perform research but also enhance innovation through research via established working relationships with industry. The program will include both training-through-research as well as hands-on training in transferable skills. The researchers’ career development will be supported via structured career plans.

Training IC-3i-PhDs to the high standard set out in the program will lead to new generation of researchers and researcher-physicians working side by side on improving health outcomes, reducing health inequalities, and promoting active and healthy ageing. Overall, the proposed project will further stimulate the development of European research and human resource capacities, knowledge transfer between academic and industry and thus strengthen the competitiveness and innovation of EU industries.

The WP1 deals with the overall day-to-day management and consortium animation, and is piloted by the operational Management Team (MT). Governing Board (GB) globally overseas the program’s strategic implementation, and is constituted from internal and external researchers within all the major expertise fields represented at Institut Curie.

The main actions during the period were:
• Concrete action plan and a precise calendar with steps and milestones to ensure a smooth project management were established, and reporting tools and templates were created.
• Online briefing on the European Charter and Code as well as a specific IC-3i-PhD Program Charter to be signed were created to avoid conflicts of interest.
• A recruitment and selection platform was implemented to ease the application step and the remote Review Board (RB) evaluation.
• A whole section on the IC3i PhD Program on Institut Curie’s website were created to ensure the promotion of the new program.

At M24, the evaluation and selection of the 35 PhD students is completed. The MT continues the project coordination activities (animation, communication, training, thesis monitoring and reporting, quality and risk assessment, financial management,...) until the end of the project.

The availability and reactivity of the Management Team, of the Project Coordinator as well that of the Project Officer towards the requests of the supervisors and PhD students are some of the strong points enabling a smooth management of the project.

Evaluation and selection of researchers

The WP2 ensures the efficiency, quality and transparency of the selection process of PhD students.

Guidelines were prepared for the selection and recruitment. MT collected the signed charters, organised briefings and recruited the Board members. For each call, as soon as the thesis projects were selected by the Governing Board, the Board contacted internal and external scientific experts to be part of the Review Board, ensuring that relevant expertise was present and overlap between Review Board and Selection Committee (SC) was as low as possible.
The matrix for the evaluation ad selection were put into place and validated. The MT carried out the day-to-day management of the Committees/Boards (emails, use of the platform, physical presence in Committees/Boards, etc.).

11, 13 and 11 candidates (total 35) co-financed by the EC were recruited in 3 batches launched in autumns 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The challenges of the evaluation and selection of the researchers were to familiarise the Doctoral Schools and (the internal actors) with the particular procedures of COFUND and the new recruitment process, but also to find a great number of experts (>50) for the Review Board, needed after the enormous success of the first call (number of applications multiplied by >10). The organisation of the interview weeks at Institut Curie was especially complimented by the supervisors and the candidates.

Communication and Dissemination

The WP3 details the high number of calls’ communication means used and the numerous contributions of the PhD students in disseminating the research results.

A communication plan elaborated for the calls detailed the messages to deliver, the tools and target groups concerned, as well as the communication channels. Extensive calls’ communication actions were carried out (internally and externally). Specific communication guidelines for the supervisors permitted to refine further the targeted audiences. The results were extremely fruitful, the number of applications and countries increased tremendously comparing to the results of the earlier years.

A great number of dissemination and outreach actions on project results were carried out by the PhD students. A monitoring platform was put into place for Career Development actions. In addition, identification of the popularisation activities feasible for the non-French-speaking PhD students and establishing of external partnerships were carried out.

Ethical issues
The WP4 deals with ethical issues. Before each call, the project proposals evaluated by the GB were equipped with an ethics self-assessment form, reviewed by the Ethics Officer. The necessary ethical documentation was collected, e.g. GMO agreements. Specific mandatory training on ethical issues was organised for the PhDs.
The visibility of the program (number of international candidates) and the number of PhD awarded (total 35 for the program) increased greatly. In addition, the project contributed to maintaining the gender equity, and permitted to achieve a true interdisciplinary and intersectoral character of PhDs compared to the existing international PhD program, witnessing thus the benefit/added value of EU co-funding.

The IC-3i-PhD COFUND program is perfectly in line with the Institut Curie’s strategy and ambitions. The independent impact study states that the program’s application and recruitment procedures are acknowledged and complimented by all the parties questioned even if some propositions for improvement are recorded. The global adherence to the program is excellent, 97% of the Committee/Board members say to be interested in continuing their participation in the current or future programs, and 100% of supervisors want to resubmit projects. 93% of candidates questioned will recommend the program.

84% of the fellows recruited think that the program is in line with their expectations and for 16% of them the program is even above their demands and expectations. No unsatisfied candidates were revealed by the impact study.

External collaborations in the frame of the training actions and scientific projects are fruitful. Tangible outputs (scientific articles, other dissemination items) are already available from the program. Interesting scientific/exploitable results are identified in domains like cancer target validation, new anti-cancer compounds, new therapeutic approach in cancer treatment and druggable proteins.

All these actions will permit to achieve the expected impacts planned.