IFSTTAR passes the 500 doctorate milestone!

In late 2016, the IFSTTAR broke the symbolic barrier of 500 PhDs written and successfully defended at the Institute since its creation in 2011. This result bears witness to a very real effort to train scientists.

Between 1st January 2011 and 31 December 2016, 159 young women and 341 young men have written and defended their doctoral thesis at IFFSTAR. Of these, 271 were directly financed by the Institute by means of a subsidy or a research contract. “Of those who completed their doctorate in the four years prior to 2016, 69% gained their doctorate in 40 months, 91% in less than 49 months and none took more than six years – figures that are far better than for doctorates in general in France (for which the figures are respectively 40%, 50% and 11%)”, explains Jean-Luc Clément, the scientific director responsible for temporary scientific posts and doctoral policy at IFSTTAR.

As regards scientific output, on average, each of these 500 PhDs contributed to two papers published in international peer-reviewed journals and took part in two international conferences. On completing their thesis, 97 % provided IFSTTAR with information about what they were doing with permission to use it. “Here too, the figures are pleasing, even exceptional”, Jean-Luc Clément reports. “The usual result in France is about 60% in France and the best result for a university is less than 89%. It is the outcome of a genuine collective strategy for recruitment and monitoring the quality of our doctoral students”.

So, what has become of them? Currently, only thirteen have found employment at IFSTTAR, as at the end of 2016, 67% had found a job with a permanent contract in the private sector or the civil service, and 22% had found temporary employment – in most cases as a postdoctoral researcher.  Jean-Luc Clément continues: “Many of the candidates who defended their thesis at the end of 2016 had already found a job. And after 5 years, their unemployment rate is only 2%, compared to the national average of 14%. These figures show that IFSTTAR successfully fulfils one of its missions, namely training by and for research… with doctoral graduates who subsequently find a job in their field of expertise”. In a report that was released in late February 2017, the Parliamentary Office for the Evaluation of Choices in Science and Technology (Office parlementaire d'évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques (OPECST)) recommended that the number of doctoral candidates should not be increased without prior consideration of their future integration within the workforce”... IFSTTAR has been following this advice for a long time.

Now, at the beginning of 2017, the Institute does not intend to rest on its laurels. “Today, IFSTTAR has 294 researchers and 187 doctoral students, 116 of whom are employed by the Institute “Jean-Luc Clément mentions.  “In other words, IFSTTAR has nearly one doctorate for every three researchers. This compares to a ratio of about one to seven for the CNRS (2015 data). Each year, IFSTTAR invests almost €2.5 million in funding doctoral research ─ a not inconsiderable budgetary effort. “And in 2017 we are maintaining the same level: already agreements have been signed for 25 subsidised doctorates and potentially seven thesis contracts will get under way at the end of the year” Jean-Luc Clément concludes.