Each year, IRSN offers around thirty new topics for doctoral research, defined in close collaboration with the academic world.
Prior to the selection of doctoral students, the Institute carries out an internal scientific evaluation of these topics and requests further evaluation by two researchers working in higher education or in a research organisation similar to IRSN (such as CNRS, the French national research organisation).
Students interested in a research topic must first contact the appropriate research unit in order to obtain the application documents (contact details are given on the proposal sheet).
Among the applicants for each thesis topic, the research unit selects a candidate whose application is assessed by the same people from inside and outside the Institute who previously assessed the research topic. The selected candidates are then invited to present their university background and the reasons behind their choice to a joint committee of IRSN and university researchers in either the June or September interview session.
Candidates are informed of whether or not they have been selected shortly after the interview. Once selected, candidates must wait until the administrative procedures have been completed and, in some cases, until a joint financing agreement (see below) has been approved, before beginning their research at IRSN between October and December.
Except in special cases, doctoral students selected by IRSN have the status of IRSN employees with a fixed-term three-year contract, which may be extended by three to six months.
The source of financing for the student’s salary has no impact on his or her status or salary level. Two-thirds of the theses carried out at IRSN are financed jointly by IRSN and a partner organisation (an industrial corporation, another research organisation, a public corporation, a regional or European funding institution). The remaining third are completely financed by IRSN (referred to as "self-financed theses").
The method of financing depends entirely on available opportunities and in no way reflects any priority related to the scientific interest of the research topics.
Organisation and supervision of research theses
During the entire thesis research period, the doctoral student's scientific research is supervised by a university thesis director from a university doctorate programme, while progress is monitored on a daily basis by a tutor working in the IRSN laboratory in charge of the thesis research.
In the course of their work, doctoral students publish scientific articles, and once a year present their work during Thesis Days (see below).
IRSN also plans to keep an eye on the long-term careers of the doctorate researchers trained at the Institute. It recently established a systematic follow-up review of its former doctoral students to collect information on their professional development. Statistically, the employability of doctoral graduates in high-potential fields after their training at IRSN will demonstrate the scientific excellence of the instruction they have received.
Each autumn, IRSN organises “Thesis Days”, where all doctoral students, whether in their first, second or third year of study, give an oral presentation (15-20 minutes) on the state of their research work. The audience includes other doctoral students and a certain number of guests: thesis tutors, supervisors, thesis directors, academics, and members of the scientific committee. As part of their preparation for Thesis Days, doctoral students are asked to write an article based on the content of their presentation.
The purpose of this event, which is an integral part of IRSN’s training-through-research policy, is to give doctoral students at least three opportunities during their thesis period to present their work to a public that goes beyond their supervisors, and to encourage contacts with each other and with other participants from IRSN or partner organisations.
Thesis Days also offer an opportunity to strengthen IRSN's ties with academics, in particular by inviting university representatives to chair one of the sessions during this event.
With an opening speech by the Director General and a closing speech by the Chairman of the Board, Thesis Days are an important event in the scientific life of the Institute.