Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions don’t just provide funding for a PhD – they also offer a unique doctoral training experience, with several additional benefits.
The purpose of the scheme is to bring together organisations such as universities, SMEs (small/medium enterprises), research centres and non-academic organisations in order to train early-stage researchers.
At PhD-level, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions fund specific projects within groups called Doctoral Networks.
These are groups of universities and other partners that have come together to offer unique doctoral training and research opportunities in a specific area.
There are three types of Doctoral Networks available for PhD students. Though they differ slightly, all offer unique opportunities to work with academic and non-academic partners in an international setting.
Standard Doctoral Networks
MSCA Doctoral Networks can be established by groups of academic and non-academic institutions, aiming to provide PhD researchers with a range of transferable skills (as well as the opportunity to engage in a particular research specialism).
Career prospects are a big focus, as well as professional networking and engagement with the public.
Each Doctoral Network must have a minimum of three independent organisations in an EU or Horizon Europe country, with at least one established in an EU member nation. Organisations from anywhere else in the world can join in addition to this.
These networks combine training from academic and non-academic partners. This allows them to offer specific training that addresses the needs of business and industry.
As a result, you’ll need to spend at least 50% of your time on Industrial Doctorate undertaking training in the non-academic sector. This is likely to involve placements with specific organisations that have partnered with your university.
You’ll normally have two supervisors – one each from the academic and non-academic sectors.
These are similar to the previous Erasmus Mundus Joint PhD programmes.
Their is to promote international training and non-academic partnerships, through multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaborations.
They award either joint, double, or multiple doctorate degrees.
A joint degree is a single PhD issued by two higher education institutions offering an integrated programme. The PhD will be recognised officially in at least the countries where the degree-awarding institutions are located.
Double or multiple degrees are two or more separate national PhD diplomas, issued by two or more higher education institutions. These will be officially recognised in the countries where these degree-awarding institutions are based.
Time spent in different sectors varies, and supervision will be tailored to this.
Studying within a Doctoral Network
Although the remit of each network differs, there are general activities that all student researchers will undertake on their given programme.
This is because the MSCA programme is not just a source of funding, but a means to undertake research in a controlled, professional, and measurable way.
Career Development Plan
In conjunction with your supervisors, you will establish a Career Development Plan, which will set out the research objectives between yourself and your beneficiaries, as well as planning training to cater to your career needs. Alongside this, the CDP will plan for the production of publications, and participation in conferences.
As well as attending conferences, there are many other forms of networking activities which you can expect to undergo during your Doctoral Network programme. These may include:
- Attending network meetings
- Visiting participating organisations in order to exchange knowledge
- Meeting with external experts to gain specialist input
- Attending workshops
- Collaborating with other Doctoral Networks or research groups
Public engagement is all about promoting research to the general public in order to create awareness of the work being performed, and stimulate understanding of its implications for society.
Conferences, presentation evenings, talks at educational institutions and taking part in research festivals are some of outreach activities which PhD students might do while within a Doctoral Network.
One such event is European Researchers’ Night which is coordinated under MSCA to encourage young people’s interest in research careers. The annual event takes place on the final Friday of September, with activities in cities all across Europe.