Frequently Asked Questions
Please read all questions and answers carefully before you contact the PhD commission with the same questions.
General questions on the PhD process
Questions on the selection of referees, examiners, or other subjects related to the thesis review and procedures should be sent to the chair of the PhD commission, who will answer them after consultation with the representative of your department in the PhD commission.
Please note that the registration process can take quite some time, especially if you have a foreign degree. It is only during the registration that a formal check is done whether your degree allows you to pursue a PhD at the Faculty of Sciences. For this reason, it is in your own interest not to wait too long until you register. Please note that employment as a scientist (“wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin”/”wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter”) does NOT imply that your degree enables you to get a PhD according to the regulations of the Faculty of Sciences.
Please note that the conditions under which you can be employed as a scientist (“wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter”) are different than those for the registration as a postgraduate student. This is especially important for degrees obtained abroad and from “Fachhochschulen” (universities of applied sciences), which sometimes allow you to be employed according to TV-L E13. This does not imply that these degrees are eligible for the Dr. rer. nat. The tests whether you are eligible is only done during the registration procedure.
Some departments have additional restrictions in place, in order to ensure the breadth of the defense. As a rule of thumb, examiners should come from more than one chair and research area (e.g., physics: one examiner has to be from experimental physics, one from theoretical physics). When in doubt please contact the representative of your department in the PhD commission.
Note that “Privatdozenten”, W1 professors, and “apl.” professors have the same rights to be examiners as W2/W3 professors.
If you still want to obtain the Dr. rer. nat., then you should name a second advisor from the Faculty of Sciences as part of the registration as a postgraduate student, i.e., 3 years before the planned submission of your dissertation. This way you can ensure that the faculty is able to guide your scientific education in this area. Naming such a second advisor just before submitting the dissertation, or naming a first advisor just before submitting the dissertation, after finishing the major part of your research for the degree, is very strongly discouraged. The culture of the different research areas at FAU is sufficiently different that such a procedure has often led to very significant problems and also to formal objections to the thesis after its review and is therefore strongly discouraged.
In a very small number of cases it is possible that a professor of another faculty is accredited to be advisor for a specific research program. This is limited to single, well justified cases. Earlier advising of Dr. rer. nat. theses do not have any predictive power whether your advisor will be accredited for your research project, since the decision is done on a case by case basis. The proposal that your professor should be external advisor should be submitted by yourself (NOT your advisor) in writing to the chair of the PhD commission. In order to avoid disappointment, we very strongly suggest that the petition to be accredited as advisor for the Dr. rer. nat. is submitted BEFORE you start your research, i.e., more than three years before the planned submission of the thesis.
General questions on the dissertation
Theses also often paraphrase the own publications, e.g., when several publications exist about an experiment and these are then summarized in one or more chapters of the thesis. Similar rules apply in this case.
The most important thing is, as the rule of thumb, that all readers of the dissertation can clearly and without any doubts understand the origins of the different parts of the thesis and that there is a very clear separation of the results obtained by the PhD candidate from those obtained from others (including co-authors!). Everything else constitutes plagiarism. Note that the culture in different fields is very different. Your advisor should be able to help.
This implies, for example, that the thesis has to be reviewed even if the other university does not require reviews, since otherwise the PhD commission of the Faculty of Sciences cannot accept the thesis. When in doubt, talk to the chair of the PhD commission. In addition, the commission and the Office of Doctoral Affairs (Promotionsbüro) need to be informed about the progression of the cotutuelle thesis, starting at a time that is much earlier than the submission of the thesis.
Impact factors are unimportant since for the evaluation of the quality of the thesis it is important to evaluate the work and publications of the PhD candidate. As the impact factor is dominated by the quality of other articles which appeared in the same journal, and not by the work of the PhD candidate, the impact factor is irrelevant for the assessment of the quality of the work of the PhD candidate.
Note that this does not mean that it is not possible to include research in different subject areas into a dissertation.
It is impossible to state in more detail what exactly has to be said here since this depends too much of the individual publication and, in the end, this description is also part of the overall work that is to be done to get the PhD.
Typically, you will write a statement that your claims are correct and you will submit this statement to the Office of Doctoral Affairs (Promotionsbüro) when submitting your thesis. In addition, you should write a similar statement for each individual publication (in English or German) and have it signed by all coauthors. Email is not sufficient.
A typical text could be:
I am a coauthor on the publication XXXXX
(bibliographical information, including title, journal, volume, pages)
and I agree to the use of this publication in the PhD thesis of XXXX.
I have seen his/her description of his/her contributions to this
publication and confirm that this description is correct.
Coauthors pursuing a habilitation need to be aware that it will become much harder for them to use the publication as part of the habilitation thesis.
All really means “all”. The regulation that all authors have to confirm the inclusion is part of FAU’s General Doctoral Regulations. A statement, e.g., of the speaker of a collaboration is explicitly not enough. The reason is that by including the publication in your thesis you claim significant parts of this publication as your own work. The requirement is so high also to protect yourself, since otherwise somebody else could claim what you did as their own work in their theses.
This implies that cumulative dissertations in subject areas which are characterized by collaboration publications with a large number of authors are virtually guaranteed to lead to problems. For these areas we therefore explicitly dissuade you from pursuing a cumulative thesis.
When in doubt you should contact the University Library.
Note that it is your responsibility to ensure that the license allows the free circulation of the dissertation. The PhD commission is responsible for the scientific aspects of the PhD, the Office of Doctoral Affairs (Promotionsbüro) for the administrative one. None of these institutions can make legally binding statements concerning licenses or copyrights.
In general, the character of cumulative dissertations is such that the publications should be recognizable as publications, so we discourage you from reformatting the publications.
However, departments can define that such manuscripts can be appendices for cumulative dissertations.