Interview of “Radio Thesards” for HackYourPhD

HackYourPhD had the opportunity to meet David Christoffel, a journalist at France Culture Plus. David has given a voice to many PhD students on “Radio Thésards“. With 70 interviews of PhD students in both “hard” and social sciences so far, this valuable initiative allows a wider public to discover the works of these young researchers.


How did you come up with the idea of creating Radio Thésards?

At first, I was looking for a speech which manages to be at the same time personal and scientific. A sort of ideal for radio. The idea to interview young researchers about their thesis, their first research, was mostly based on the hope of collecting speeches that could reflect this process, that could tell its experimentations and its benefits at the same time.

You were able to interview a large number of PhD students? How did you meet them?

Yes, I interviewed 70 PhD students more or less. I read every day hundreds of thesis titles with the RSS feed of and I gather information on the authors whose works seem the most singular to me, with regard to their discipline. At the beginning, I targeted especially PhD students whose object of study were forcing to renew the approach of their domain. Now, I concentrate on those who can testify of a particularly creative method. In the future, I would like to question them about their influence strategies and what their anticipation of the results or their personal ambitions can even modify during the research process.

You interviewed as well hard sciences and social sciences PhD students? Did you notice some different manners to approach the doctorate?

Yes, it seems that the hard sciences give to the PhD students a more explicit relation with the stakes of collaboration. I have the impression that they suffer less from vagueness in the relationship they build with their supervisors, but that there is also less flexibility in their evolutions in their research field. But this is where the gap between hard and social sciences seems to increasingly shrink, since students’ path are more and more settled on pre-rationalized schedules.

Did you notice some evolution, along the years, concerning questions and concerns of the PhD students about their thesis?

I have the impression that PhD students undergo more pressures, but that they also have a much more accurate awareness of this. From this perspective, the concerns did not really change. It is still about looking for ways to bloom in the institutional horizons, which appear more and more narrow.

HackYourPhD is interested in new practices of research and open science: transparency, open access, open data … Did those themes appear during your conversations with the PhD students?

I noticed that new means of documentation have been incorporated, very spontaneously, including the use of digital tools, and that other fields of research are now more easily being integrated into new collaborative practices. On the other hand, we cannot state yet that the open science culture is well assimilated. I wonder if this should not come from the laboratories, when the incentive to publish still seems to remain the object of many uncertainties.

Thanks to David Christoffel to have granted us some time !

Thanks to Matthieu Le Chanjour for the translation and Guillaume Dumas, François Asperti-Boursin for the proofreadings




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