Doc’Up: an association run by and for PhD students

Doc’Up, the association for Sorbonne University PhD students, is open to all young researchers at the Sorbonne and is also especially committed to scientific outreach to the general public. Here’s a picture of a particularly dynamic network.


Formed just 10 years ago in January 2006, the association started as an organization for PhD students at the Université Pierre and Marie Curie before it became an association for Sorbonne University PhD students as a whole. Today, Doc’Up brings together some 600 students from the UPMC, Paris-Sorbonne, National Museum of Natural History, the University of Technology at Compiègne and INSEAD. With its main aim being to promote PhD education, the activities on offer to students also contribute to building and boosting the influence of the Sorbonne University community.


From simple conviviality to career development

The aim of its Communication and Networking center, for example, is to encourage PhD students to meet; it does so, in particular, by organizing group events (after work get-togethers, summer parties and more) and sporting tournaments. Clément Courvoisier, a PhD student at UPMC and Doc’Up president for 2015, emphasizes that, “In addition to forging links among us, these informal exchanges give us the chance to better understand what connects us and the characteristics of our work. While we may come from different disciplines, we are all research professionals with the same cross-cutting skills in written and oral communication, project management and so on.”

Doc’Up’s Careers Center seeks to help young researchers to promote these skills for their future careers. Courvoisier explains that, “Among other things, it is about raising their awareness that academic or private research and lecturing are far from being the only career paths to follow after graduating. A doctor can also take up a managerial position in a company, move into the civil service or create a start-up company, for instance.” In conjunction with other French associations for young researchers, Doc’Up organizes regular meet-ups with doctors whose unique professional profiles demonstrate this range of possibilities. For a year now, the association has also been a stakeholder in the One Doc Show, produced by Docteo, a media outlet for young researchers, which also brings in professionals whose career paths may be a source of inspiration for their juniors.

Furthermore, alongside the UPMC’s Institut de formation doctorale (Institute of Doctoral Training) and a partner agency specializing in the recruitment of doctors, Adoc Talent Management, Doc’Up provides doctors with the information and education needed to make progress in their careers – What opportunities are available? How should you word your CV? How should you manage your profile on social networks? – and more.


Giving PhD students a voice

Doc’Up is also becoming increasingly involved with giving young researchers a voice, both within Sorbonne University and beyond. This objective led it to create a new center: the Representation and Support of PhD Students Center. The association therefore encourages these students to get involved in the institutions’ representative bodies (the Research Committee, for instance), in particular by helping these institutions to create lists of candidates and by sharing experiences with newly-elected students. It also supports PhD students who are experiencing difficulty in the course of their studies (such as administrative problems and conflict with supervisors).

Furthermore, it is a member of the Confederation of Young Researchers, which brings together some 30 associations and represents PhD students on a national level, especially with regard to public authorities. Finally, along with Adoc Talent Management and Docteo, the association has organized an international science conference on PhDs as a research subject for the past two years. The last conference took place on November 20, 2015, at UPMC, with 150 registered attendees coming from some 10 countries. The conference was an opportunity for exchanges on the differences in the nature and perception of PhD education according to each country, and on necessary developments.


Promoting PhD education among the general public

Doc’Up also wants to display laboratories’ research in order to raise awareness of such research among the general public, and especially among youngsters. For example, every year its Scientific Outreach Center organizes the Les chercheurs font leur cinéma (Researchers Making Movies) festival, which screens some 10 playful and educational short movies produced by Sorbonne University PhD students or other such students from the Ile-de-France region on their field of research and their daily lives as researchers. As Courvoisier explains, “We teach them how to write a script, how to shoot a film and how to edit it, and we equip them with everything they need to do so. The short movies are shown during the fall, especially during the Fête de la science at Sorbonne University’s Village des sciences, as well as in schools in the Ile-de-France region. This is a way to get high school students interested in research and to teach them about the variety of courses that can lead up to this. Then, at the end of November, we will close the festival with an award ceremony at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in Paris in front of a panel of expert judges in the fields of science, scientific outreach and cinematic quality.” Every year, more than a thousand people attend these screenings. However, the films are also available online and can be used by lecturers as a teaching aid.

Likewise, Doc’Up hosts workshops in primary schools in the Ile-de-France region to help pupils explore scientific concepts. Similar to Les chercheurs font leur cinéma, this initiative, which has been christened Les chercheurs vont à l’école (Researchers Go to School), is having real success among young people as well as among the PhD students, helping them to disseminate their work and boost their communication skills.


Life in student associations is becoming richer and richer...and more enriching

To better unify, support and represent Sorbonne University PhD students, Doc’Up has also formed partnerships with two other associations in the community: the Bureau des doctorants et étudiants du Muséum (BDEM - the National Museum’s office for PhD students and undergraduates) and Réseau des étudiants doctorants et docteurs de l’UTC (RED2 - the network for PhD students and UTC doctors). These partnerships are aimed at developing an exchange of experiences and joint activities. For example, the UTC will be hosting a screening of the Les chercheurs font leur cinéma festival from now on.

Ranging from simply participating in the numerous events on offer to being able to play an active part in their organization, every PhD student in the community can be involved with Doc’Up as little or as much as they wish or are able. The most active participants clearly draw a lot from this: Courvoisier highlights how, “Personally, I dedicate a lot of my free time to the association and it is a real source of fulfillment. In the first year, 2014, I was the treasurer and did a lot of work on the Les chercheurs font leur cinéma festival, even producing a short movie myself. In 2015, I was both president of Doc’Up and the Confederation of Young Researchers, and had a lot of involvement with the international conference on PhDs. This year, I am vice president of Doc’Up, in order to advise the next president. Not only have I developed my skills in scientific outreach, organization and project management, but it has also been a very enriching human experience. I am convinced that this will be an important component of my career.”



Related to this article

To read

Doc’Up website

Les chercheurs font leur cinéma website

Les chercheurs vont à l’école website


To watch

Movies from the 2015 Les chercheurs font leur cinéma festival



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