The review board

Gepubliceerd op 8 maart 2024 om 12:00

The way you obtain your doctorate differs between countries. In the Netherlands, you send your finished dissertation to a review board (also known as a reading committee), which consists of three professors. This review board must first approve your dissertation before you can defend it. But how exactly does this work?

Who is on the review board?

Your first supervisor makes a nomination for the review board, but you usually put it together with the entire supervising team. They are often professors working in the same field or in another field, but with expertise on the topic of your dissertation. These may also be professors from other universities. Your supervisor will invite them to be on your review board. When the contents of your dissertation are ready, the members of the review board will receive the manuscript via the university's online promotion environment (Hora Finita). Tip: Check with the board members if they might prefer a hard copy, so you can print and send them the manuscript. This can be a simply print and does not have to be your nicely formatted dissertation yet!

What is the role of the review board?

A review board reads your dissertation from front to back. They look at whether the research you have done is of sufficient scientific quality, originality, and at your reflection on the research as shown in the general introduction, discussion, and written presentation. Usually they have several weeks to perform their review. Should an application be made for a cum laude promotion, the PhD student's supervising team needs to start this procedure before sending out the manuscript. This always happens without informing the PhD candidate. The review board will then receive a message from the university asking if they would rate your dissertation as excellent quality (best 5% in the science field) to be considered for this. As a rule, the members of the review board also act as the opponents during your defense.

Content feedback

In Hora Finita, each review board member may also indicate whether they have suggestions for improvement for the PhD candidate and their supervising team. These suggestions are sent along with their assessment and decision. The suggestions that deal with the general introduction and discussion can be incorporated by the PhD candidate before the dissertation is printed. If the suggestions are about previously published articles, you usually do not process the comments because then your dissertation would deviate from what has been published.

What if your dissertation is not approved?

This is actually rare. Usually you have already published several articles, which have been identified as studies of sufficient quality through the peer review process. If a review board does not approve the dissertation, they must also provide the arguments for their decision. Reasons for rejecting a dissertation include too few published articles, publications in low quality (or predatory) journals, too few articles as first author, too many articles still "in preparation", plagiarism or incomplete source citations. This has occurred a few times in recent years in the Netherlands. By adjusting your dissertation on the feedback points you should be able to come to a better version, which will hopefully then be approved during your next review.

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