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FIRE Program Guidelines

The FIRE guidelines are based on the five-year project (2019-2023) of the doctoral school approved in 2018 by the AERES, the french evaluation agency for research and higher education. The guidelines are also available in the FIRE program handbook.

FIRE spirit

The pedagogic FIRE program is focused on the active participation of the PhD students in their own education at the frontiers of knowledge. The FIRE program fosters an environment of cooperation and excellence that enables students to develop their potential as young researchers.
The program enables labs to host unconventional theses, with respect to their usual doctoral school, to participate in an interdisciplinary community, and to take advantage of resources made available by the doctoral school to their students.

Admission to the PhD program

Applications to the FIRE doctoral school are first reviewed by a pre-selection committee composed of scientific members of the doctoral school council to determine eligibility for the program. Next, eligible candidates are invited for an oral presentation of their project and
prospects in front of the International Scientific Council (ISC). Students who are deemed eligible by the ISC will be admitted to the doctoral school. The hosting labs are committed to support and facilitate the participation of their FIRE PhD students in the doctoral training program.

University Registration

FIRE PhD students must be registered at Paris Descartes, Paris Diderot or Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) University for every year of their PhD studies. At the beginning of each academic year, all students must complete the registration process, as registration does not automatically
renew from one academic year to the next. The administrative registration deadline is in mid November of each year. The exact deadlines can be found on the University websites.

The PhD diploma is issued by Université Sorbonne Paris Cité (USPC) or PSL, not by the doctoral school. Thus it is imperative that students are registered, otherwise the diploma and student benefits cannot be granted.

PhD Funding

All PhD students must have doctoral funding for three years. Since the doctoral school is not able to support all the eligible candidates, students and their supervisors are encouraged to apply for funding available from other institutions and organizations. In most cases, funding is issued to the student through the universities. However, it is also possible to have an agreement between the university and any funding provider such that the student’s stipend is issued to him/her from the funding provider directly. In either case, all students must have explicit 3-year funding of at least 1 747,20 euros per month gross for his/her doctoral studies.

Training program

The FIRE docral school offers an extensive training program that combines research with a curriculum of advanced courses and workshops on interdisciplinary research, science-related topics and transversal skills for scientific and non-scientific professions. The interdisciplinary nature of students’ interests and projects requires a broad set of skills and knowledge.

Students are required to validate at least 300 hours of academic training including advanced, interactive training sessions, student-led scientific clubs, workshops, and conferences before the thesis defense is granted. At least half of this training should be earned through FIRE courses, workshops and other activities organized by the CRI. The remaining hours may be validated through courses taken at other institutions in France and abroad, massive open online courses (MOOC), international meetings and summer schools, teaching activities, etc. upon prior approval from the FIRE staff.

A number of FIRE courses are mandatory for each student to complete before the end of their third year of studies. These courses aim to develop the transversal skills necessary in the research community such as scientific communication, interdisciplinary collaboration and responsible research practices.

Additionally, to foster interactions and community building in the FIRE doctoral school, students are expected to participate in the following student seminars and workshops throughout their studies.

Interdisciplinary Thursdays

During their first year, PhD students give a short presentation to introduce their research project, the main issues, and approaches. Because these presentations are held in front of an audience of student researchers from a variety of backgrounds, this is an effective training for accessible communication. These seminars are intended to promote discussions and scientific exchanges among the students and to build the interdisciplinary FIRE community.

Thematic Workshops

The second-year presentation occurs during the Thematic Workshops, which groups FIRE and AIRE students according to specialized areas of expertise. Each student group collaborates to host a day-long academic conference in which they present their work, invite experts to give
specialized talks, organize collective activities, etc. While the type of presentation may take many forms (e.g. powerpoint/slides, poster, group presentation, demonstration, etc.) the aim is for more advanced and specialized research discussions between students, invited members of their lab and outside researchers.

International Conferences

Students must also participate in at least two international workshops/conferences during their thesis to maximize the visibility of their work and develop contacts for their professional projects. To this aim the program provides up to 1 000 euros per year per student to help cover the expenses for attending international workshops and conferences. Additional mobility grants are available through Paris Descartes and Paris Diderot universities:

University Paris Descartes: Bourses doctorales de mobilité de l’université
University Paris Diderot: Mobilité d’études en doctorat

Annual Training Report

The doctoral school monitors the academic progress of the PhD students through the annual training report, which is an editable document shared between each student and the FIRE staff. At the end of the academic year, students must submit a training report where they document the courses and training hours acquired during the year.

Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC)

The Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) follows the student throughout their PhD. Its role is to ensure the progress of the research, with respect to the original aims and in the light of new advances in the field, as well as the general well being of the fellow. The TAC consists of the PhD supervisor(s) and two senior scientists (tutors) of complementary expertise to cover the different interdisciplinary facets of the student’s project. The tutors should work outside of the supervisors’ labs and should not be past or present collaborators of the supervisor. The TAC tutors are selected by the student and should be approved by the PhD supervisor before final approval from the FIRE director of studies.

The PhD student meets with the TAC members at least once per year. The first meeting should take place six months after the start of the PhD. Because this meeting occurs relatively quickly after the start of the PhD, the purpose of the first TAC meeting is not necessarily to present results, but to evaluate the current stage of the research and further develop the plan for the coming year. The subsequent meetings should take place no more than one year apart.

Before each meeting, the fellow submits a written progress report to the members of the TAC.

First year report

For 1st year candidates the report is intended to be an updated thesis project (~10 pages). It should be structured as a research proposal and should discuss the existing experimental and theoretical bases of the subject and preliminary results.

Second year report

The 2nd year summary should grow to an intermediary summary (~15 pages) including scientific context, the aims, results, conclusions and perspective on the remaining work to be done.

Third year report

Building on the previous documents, the 3rd year summary (~30 pages) aims to provide an outline of the thesis manuscript.

Report guidelines for all years

In order to prepare the discussions at the meeting the document should also address the following questions:

1. What were the most important results since the last meeting (or since the beginning of the PhD for 1st year candidates), in terms of scientific achievements and progress in your work?

2. Were there changes in the project since the last meeting (or since the beginning of the PhD for 1st year candidates)? If so, what was the cause of the changes and/or delay and what was the response to this?

3. What were the principal difficulties encountered? What measures of actions have been undertaken in response? In addition, the PhD candidate should also take advantage of the TAC report to include questions on issues they would like to address during the meeting.

TAC Meeting and Tutors Report

During the meeting, the progress of the PhD work is discussed and the TAC provides advice and criticism on the proposed research plan for the next year(s). The TAC will also advise the fellow on scientific and career issues and on the choice of conferences and training courses.

The TAC members are expected to complete the tutors report with feedback for the student on his/her research progress, plan, and training program. Copies of the student’s TAC report and tutors report should be submitted to the doctoral school with the end of the year training report.

Please see the TAC meeting guidelines for more details.

Criteria for doctoral degree

The PhD at the FIRE program represents a combination of research experience gained in the hosting lab and experience in interdisciplinary science and education related activities gained through the doctoral school training program.

Approval to defend the thesis is granted by the doctoral school board of directors. The board will consider the following: the TAC recommendations, research achievements, publications or dissemination of the work in the thesis, and completion of the doctoral school training program including courses, conferences, and involvement in the FIRE doctoral program. The defense criteria rely on the quality of the thesis manuscript, the doctoral training, experience gained during the thesis and the capacity to defend within three years.

The doctoral school does not require a particular number of publications to authorize the defense. However, the research processes and outcomes should be documented and communicated in an appropriate way to the research community and, as far as possible, to the wider public.

The doctoral school recommends that the students are involved in three (pre-)publications during their thesis:
• One research article written with the lab, not necessarily as lead author, and not necessarily on the student’s main subject
• One review type article, taking advantage of the work of interdisciplinary synthesis expected by the doctoral school
• One research article as lead author on the student’s main subject.

For students who have components of their thesis work in a discipline where peer reviewed publishing is not common (e.g. Art, Design), the doctoral school recommends that the students share his/her work in venues appropriate for the field. These venues may include international
conferences, interactive demonstrations, exhibitions, etc.

In addition to wider dissemination of the work, students are expected to document their research progress in the TAC reports and present the state of their research to their TAC annually.The final outcomes and process are documented and presented in the final PhD dissertation and defense. While other media is permitted to accompany the dissertation, a written document is mandatory for completion of the FIRE PhD.

The doctorate degree is awarded after examination of the candidate’s work by two reviewers and defense in front of the doctoral jury. Neither reviewer can be affiliated with USPC or PSL (for students registered at USPC or PSL, respectively), and at most one of the reviewers can be
a member of the TAC. The composition of the defense jury must follow the requirements of the university to which the student is registered.

Duration of the thesis

PhD students at the FIRE doctoral school are expected to finish their PhD in three years. Extensions are only granted under exceptional circumstances and need the approval of the Thesis Advisory Committee and the director of the doctoral school. Extensions will only be considered if funding is available.

Students must submit a fourth year registration request form, available on the FIRE website, to the FIRE office. Additional procedures for each university are available on the FIRE website.

Post-thesis preparation and follow-up

The FIRE program will provide training and assistance to help fellows and alumni to initiate a successful professional career after the thesis.

When publications related to the PhD work are accepted before or even after the defense (if publications were delayed), the FIRE school should be informed to maximize the visibility of the fellows achievements. FIRE alumni will be featured on the doctoral school’s web site to facilitate contact between current students and alumni. To keep the strength of the FIRE community, alumni will be invited to various FIRE scientific events and are encouraged to participate in and maintain an FIRE alumni network.

Signatures and acknowledgements

Signature regulations of the hosting lab and employer must be respected. In particular, students holding a “contrat doctoral” fellowship with university funds must include the following affiliations on their publications:

1. Funding university (Paris Descartes, Paris Diderot or Paris Sciences Lettres), Paris, France.

2. University/Institute where the PhD takes place (if different from the funding university), lab name, unit label (e.g. CNRS UMR, INSERM U), post code, city, country.

Holders of a “contrat doctoral” paid from non-university funds (case of convention between an external payer organism and the university) have to mention in the signature the university at which the PhD takes place.

Due to the financial support they receive, FIRE PhD students are also expected to rightfully acknowledge at the end of the publication their funding organism and the “Ecole Doctorale FIRE – Programme Bettencourt.”

Website representation and student network

At the beginning of their PhD, students are asked to sign a photo release form giving the CRI permission to use photos and/or videos of the themselves on the CRI website and other advertising venues. Please see the release form for more details. Students may opt out of the photo release at any time by submitting a new photo release form to the FIRE office indicating that they do not grant permission for the CRI to publish photos/videos featuring the student. In this case, the CRI staff will do their best to remove existing photos and videos from published materials, but cannot guarantee that everything is removed immediately.

Student website profile

The FIRE staff will create a basic academic profile page for each student on the FIRE website. The page will contain the thesis title, abstract, supervisor, hosting lab, funding source, and photo of the student. This information will be taken from the original FIRE application. Students may update their profile content at any time by emailing the FIRE office with the necessary changes.

CRI Moodle

FIRE students may contact other FIRE students, alumni, CRI students, and partners through the CRI Moodle. Students will be given a login to the Moodle at the beginning of their PhD which will give them access to a number of resources including the following forums:

Forum for FIRE PhD courses and activities: for posts about courses, activities, thesis defenses, etc.
Forum for non-CRI PhD related information: for posts about anything you want to share including external courses, seminars, tips, etc
Forum for post-docs and job information
Forum for general CRI activities: for posts about courses, activities, etc. to be shared with all CRI members
Forum for other activities and discussions: for all information on the scientific community, wokshops, seminars, books, websites, projects and discussions…

Scientific ethics

Ethical behavior is expected during the course of the PhD. This includes originality and reproducibility of the results generated and confidential treatment of privileged communications.

The financial support by the doctoral school (to attend conferences and workshops), yearly registration renewal at the university, and authorization to defend are conditional upon the respect of the present guidelines (e.g. organization of the yearly TAC meeting, attendance to mandatory courses, realization of a approximately 100 hours training per year).

For any questions or concerns about these FIRE guidelines, please contact the FIRE staff.