Information for PhD-students and their supervisors


For our PhD-students and their supervisors we here outline the goal and the main elements of SIKS teaching program. Among other things, we sketch the main activities organized by the school, formulate the formal requirements for SIKS-PhD-students entering this program, and explain how the school maintains the quality of the program and monitors the progress of its PhD-students.

1. Introduction

The main aim of the SIKS teaching program is to offer PhD students a nation-wide teaching program in the field of Information and Knowledge Systems during the course of their PhD study, that will provide them with broad basic knowledge as well as specialized, advanced training. SIKS-alumni will be high-quality researchers, possessing a thorough knowledge of the School's field of research, and specialized in the subject of their dissertation. They will be able to carry out fundamental research as well as put their knowledge to practical use. As a result, SIKS-alumni can be expected to enter the labor market in a favorable position, whether they continue their career in academic research, industrial research or consultancy.

To achieve these objectives SIKS shapes a four-year program by (co-)organizing and (co-) financing such divergent activities as courses, master classes, seminars, research colloquia, doctoral consortia and lectures/tutorials given by visiting professors from abroad or senior staff members. For the most part SIKS realizes these training activities by utilizing its nation-wide expertise. Increasingly, the training program of SIKS has gained an international character. This has been achieved for instance by inviting top speakers from abroad at advanced courses and by arranging a free admission of SIKS PhD-students to accredited international summer schools, or to tutorial programs and doctoral consortia of accredited international conferences. The courses developed by SIKS itself have a twofold aim:

1. to provide the PhD-student with a basic methodological training and to supplement the Masters courses the PhD-student has followed;

2. to bring the PhD-student into contact with the international forefront of research topics, addressed by the student in his PhD-project.

In the period 2009-2015 SIKS made a distinction between a Tutorial Program (based on the previous Basic Course Program) and Advanced Courses, which are at the heart of the Advanced Activities Program. Board and Scientific Advisory Committee decided to drop this distinction. As of 2016 SIKS organizes its course program along two dimensions:

1. Courses with a broad focus versus courses on a more specialized topic. Courses with a broad scope are typically aimed at the entire population of 250 SIKS-PhD-students; courses with a narrow focus may be aimed at a small niche.

2. Courses that are offered on a regular basis with a fixed periodicity versus courses which are organized depending on new trends in the field, identified by the SIKS Program Committee, or upon request. In fact they could be organized only once, or evolve into a regular course.

For example, the SIKS course on Research Methods and Methodology for IKS is organized each year and is strongly recommended to all SIKS PhD students. The tutorial takes three days and intends to cater for the observation of many supervisors that students often lack an adequate methodological background for doing research. It is a broad course that covers such divergent topics as philosophy of computer science, research planning, problem analysis, case studies as a research design, empirical validation techniques and qualitative research. The following courses have been successfully organized in the past period of six years as Basic courses / Tutorials and are now being transformed along the newly established criteria.

an overview of recent and upcoming SIKS-activities

2. Research environment

SIKS currently concentrates on nine important focus areas in the IKS field, some of which have natural partial overlap. These focus areas have been established by senior research fellows of SIKS in a process of intensive and iterative consultations. Each focus area has a focus director, who can help the scientific and managing directors in finding the most suitable researchers for coordinating a course, seminar or conference in that area. A program committee monitors the evolution of the IKS research field through the years and may propose to create new focus areas or discontinue existing ones. The research foci for the upcoming period of six years are as follows :

  1. Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (focus director: Prof. Dr. F. Van Harmelen, VU)
  2. Computational Intelligence (focus director: Prof. Dr. E.O. Postma, TiU)
  3. Agent Technology (focus director: Prof. Dr. J.-J. Ch. Meyer, UU)
  4. Computational Linguistics (focus director: Prof. Dr. A. van den Bosch, RUN)
  5. Web-based information systems (focus director: Prof. Dr. G.-J. Houben, TUD)
  6. Human Computer Interaction (focus director: Prof. Dr. V. Evers, UT)
  7. Datamanagement, Storage and Retrieval (focus director: Dr. D. Hiemstra, UT)
  8. Process mining / Business Process Management (focus director: Prof. Dr. H. Reijers, VU)
  9. Enterprise Information Systems (focus director: Prof.dr. R.J. Wieringa, UT)
The list of research foci is periodically reviewed and revised to adequately reflect the current state of the IKS research activities in the Netherlands. During the last review in 2015 research foci 4 and 8 were added.

Typically, all elements of the SIKS Activity Program, including courses, master classes, summer schools, seminars or conferences are related to these research foci. Also, all 50 research groups that are member of SIKS fit nicely into one or two of these focus areas. As a result of this clustering the backbone of the educational plan becomes apparent: in the next section it will be outlined how these nine themes are reflected in the activity program of SIKS.

An important aspect of the SIKS Research Context concerns cooperation. SIKS has strong ties with national and international organizations and programs in the IKS area and in neighboring fields. To exemplify this: SIKS cooperates with the Dutch Belgium Association for Artificial Intelligence (BNVKI) since 1998, among other things by co-organizing the yearly Dutch-Belgian Artificial Intelligence Conference (BNAIC). SIKS has a comparable long running cooperation with c.q. participates in the Belgium Netherlands Conference on Machine Learning (BENELEARN), the Dutch-Belgian DataBase Day (DBDBD), the Dutch-Belgian Information Retrieval Workshop (DIR), and Computational Linguistics in the Netherlands (CLIN). In 2006 SIKS founded the yearly Netherlands Belgium conference on Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) which is currently organized by SIKS in cooperation with the BENAIS, the Belgium-Netherlands Chapter of the AIS Society. In addition SIKS also has a successful cooperation with NIRICT through joint organization of the NIRICT-SIKS springschool on Human Computer Interaction. Furthermore, SIKS is associated with the NWO program on Language in Interaction, it contributes to the "ICT with Industry" workshop(s) at the Lorentz Center and organizes yearly a track in the national ICT.OPEN conference. In 2016 SIKS will be the chair of the national ICT.OPEN conference.

Due to the cooperation with the aforementioned organizations SIKS members can participate for free in conferences like DBDBD, BENELEARN, DIR and EIS. SIKS also has a long running cooperation with the AAMAS, the European Summer school on Multi Agent systems, thus enabling SIKS-PhD-students to participate for free. Since 2005 SIKS also cooperates with the top conferences that are organized in the Netherlands, such as EASSS, SIGIR, CAiSE, and (next year) IJCAI, allowing the SIKS PhD-students to participate in tutorial programs, workshops of doctoral consortia for free. The Scientific Director of SIKS, represents SIKS in several national gremia.

Finally, internal communication and cooperation is stimulated by organizing annual SIKS-days (traditionally in Utrecht) or SIKS meetings at ICT Open and, even more importantly, by inviting all members at the (educational) activities. On average SIKS (co-) organizes or (co-) finances around 25 activities per year that are mainly aimed at PhD students, but by inviting all research-fellows and also frequently alumni, SIKS aims at bringing together the senior staff to foster networking and research collaboration

3. Quality, supervision and efficiency

The final responsibility for each promotion remains at the university where the defense takes place. SIKS has its own policy with respect to quality and control. The scientific director of SIKS is responsible for the (scientific) quality of the teaching program. The managing director is responsible for the organisation of the program.
  1. Each student entering the school has to provide SIKS with a detailed supervision and teaching program. In addition SIKS demands the promoter or at least the co-promotor and daily supervisor to be senior research fellows of SIKS. Furthermore, SIKS expects a so called co-supervisor to be added to the reading committee. The co-supervisor is a staff member who is not employed at the same university where the promotion takes place.
  2. Each PhD-students fills in the SIKS-monitor, an electronic questionnaire with over 80 questions about project characteristics and research interests. As a result the school has a database with over 400 projects, that enables SIKS to monitor relevant developments and trends in the IKS-field of the Netherlands and -if necessary- to make adjustments to the teaching program to cater for these developments. SIKS also investigates how the PhD-research is funded and which external partners are involved in the project. Results are published and made available for the members.
  3. At least once a year the managing director contacts the research leaders about progress of the phd-students working in that particular group. Aggregated data on duration, PhD-degree delivery and drop-outs are published yearly.
  4. Basic courses and advanced courses are assessed based on written evaluations.
  5. SIKS has a PhD Students Advisory committee that represents the PhD-students and advises the scientific director and board of governors on all aspects of the school that are relevant for the Phd-student .l