The IDEAL project
The IDEAL project (European Soft Skills for PhD: enhancing transversal skills through innovative doctoral courses) was set up in 2019 as part of the ATHENS programme and, 36 months later, is now drawing to an end.
Some of the members of the ATHENS network, including four of the ParisTech schools (AgroParisTech, Arts et Métiers, Chimie ParisTech – PSL, and Mines Paris – PSL), got together to think about how to improve, enrich, and promote doctoral programmes internationally, with a view to better equipping young European researchers to address increasingly complex issues, question the relevance of their research activities, and boost the societal and economic impact of their work. One of the major gaps we identified in doctoral programmes was a lack of training in soft skills. The IDEAL project was therefore set up to create a database listing all existing soft skills training at doctoral level, and to design new methods and content.
At the beginning of the project, we ran a survey to ask PhD candidates what they required. We got over 1000 responses! This data helped us tailor our training courses to student demand. We created a catalogue for PhD candidates, which lists all of the soft skills courses offered by institutions within the consortium. We also designed a MOOC called “Creative and design thinking: process and tools for innovation”, which is open to anyone and can be completed online, and two in-person classes: “Creative and design thinking – Tools and techniques for success” and “Mediating international and scientific communication”. Thirdly, we ran a session on the peer-based “Co-orientation” learning method developed by Isabelle Liotta, professor at Mines Paris – PSL, which aims to help PhD candidates identify their strengths and weaknesses and define their career goals and work out how to achieve them. Last but not least, we organised an event to present our findings. We had planned a second of these, but had to cancel due to COVID. Despite having to make some changes due to the COVID pandemic, such as running some classes online, the IDEAL project has definitely been a success. The feedback from PhD candidates has been very positive. They consider soft skills training an essential part of their studies, in particular because it helps them improve how they present research results to non-specialist audiences.
The “Creative and design thinking: process and tools for innovation” MOOC will remain online, for anyone who is interested. We’re talking to our ATHENS partners about keeping the two courses we developed open to all members of the network. The plan is for the staff who designed the classes to run them at different institutions. For the IDEAL course catalogue, we’re planning to talk to the various European universities involved to see if we can integrate the IDEAL courses in the EELISA catalogue.
More information about The IDEAL project