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Take part!

Why you should take part in the Nacaps survey

The aim of Nacaps is to collect comprehensive information on doctoral study conditions and doctorate success, career aims, career paths and general life situations of doctoral candidates and doctorate holders.

In 2019 and 2021 more than 37.000 doctoral candidates have already been invited and participated in the first survey. If you have given your consent, you will be invited to also take part in the follow-up surveys. These follow-up surveys will provide us the longitudinal perspective on doctoral candidates’ careers and life paths.

Your participation is a major contribution for the study!

Even if you feel that you did not follow the usual path to, or during your doctoral studies, your participation is very important because only with a wide range of respondents can we gain a full picture of the doctorate landscape. This also applies if you discontinue your doctorate in the meantime or if you only came to Germany for your doctorate or if you intend to leave Germany after completing your doctorate.

Scientific research, HEIs and educational policy benefit from this information – and so will you yourself as a doctoral candidate!

The first results of the study are accessible via a data portal.

7 good reasons for taking part

You are actively supporting a research project.


As a doctoral candidate, you yourself are carrying out research. Nacaps is a project in the context of higher education research and science studies, directed above all at the scientific community. Support us with your participation – as a colleague!

Your experience will influence future decisions.


Apart from the scientific community, HEIs and politicians also use the findings to make evidence-based decisions. They can appraise the effectiveness of services or programmes and thus improve doctorate conditions and support early career researchers more effectively.

You help to underpin arguments with facts.


Working conditions and career paths of early career researchers are the subject of lively public discussion. We will evaluate your answers to our questions in an open-ended way, so we can contribute hard evidence to the debates.

Your personal path counts.


Whether you’re a musicologist or chemist, a scholarship holder or research assistant: studying for a doctorate in Germany takes many forms. Collecting the experiences of each individual doctoral candidate is important in order to reflect this diversity.

You can reflect on your own career.


You can use the survey as an opportunity to reflect on your own career. The survey findings are available in a publicly accessible data portal, giving you an interesting external perspective.

You are part of a unique study.


Our study is the only representative scientific examination of doctoral candidates and doctorate holders in Germany. You can be part of it!

Our thanks.


As a thank-you to our respondents, we are holding a prize draw for all participants, with attractive prizes.


What are we interested in?

Nacaps gives us insights into the situation of doctoral candidates across Germany. Over the course of the study we will focus on a range of topics that are explained in the diagram below.

Motivation and Attitudes
  • Doctorate topic
  • Motivation for taking a doctorate
  • Career aims
  • Life goals
  • Attitudes towards academia
Personal Background
  • Family and cohabitation
  • Social background
  • Educational trajectories
  • Personality traits
  • Health
  • Social demography
Qualification Process
  • Mentor-mentee relationship
  • Promotion and Financing
  • Membership in doctoral programmes and evaluation
  • Knowledge transfer
Academic Work
  • Academic activities
  • Working conditions
  • Networks and social capital
  • Individual and societal returns
  • Doctoral success and dropout
Career Paths
  • Career strategies and decisions
  • Careers in and outside academia
  • Paths to a (university of applied sciences) professorship
  • International mobility


How much time and effort is required to participate?

Nacaps Aufwand

Depending on your personal situation, it will take you between 25 and 35 minutes to complete the online questionnaire. The questions will focus mainly on the current status of your doctoral studies, your career targets and life goals.

We would be very grateful if you would also take part in the annual follow-up surveys, since it is these that will provide us the longitudinal perspective on doctoral candidates’ careers and life paths.

Data Protection

What happens to your data?

Nacaps Aufwand

If you give your consent, we will save your personal contact data so we can contact you for follow-up surveys. This information will be saved separately from your survey answers in a protected area of DZHW’s in-house server. The information given in the survey is pseudonymised before being processed (i.e. cleared of names or addresses).

Sensitive information and all open statements are specially protected to ensure that they cannot be traced back to individual participants.

You can find more information about data protection at Nacaps here.

FAQ - Frequentliy Asked Questions

How do I participate?

If the HEI at which you are taking your doctorate is a Nacaps-partner you have been invited to take part in our survey either in 2019 or in 2021. If you have already taken part, at the end of the survey we have asked for permission to contact you again. In case you have given us the consent to do so and additionally an email-address you will receive invitations for the follow up.

You can find an overview of our partner HEIs here. Is your HEI on the list? If not, you could suggest it to your doctorate office or the management of your HEI!

Who is behind Nacaps?

Nacaps is a research project of the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW), that is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Nacaps is collaborating with a large number of partner- HEIs throughout Germany that are authorised to award doctorates, and we will carry out the survey jointly with them.

What will happen to the information I give on the questionnaire, i.e. with the survey data?

As soon as the online survey is completed, we will save the survey data separately from the respondents’ names and addresses on DZHW servers that are specially safeguarded for this purpose. Project staff are the only people with access to this protected server area, and only with express permission from the Nacaps project management. The survey data will subsequently be prepared for future use. Before being passed on to third parties such as secondary researchers (on application), we will ensure that they are anonymised.

The data will be aggregated to varying degrees, depending on the purpose for which they are to be used. Those data that are available via the data portal are allocated to the highest aggregation level; this ensures that it is not possible to trace them back to any individual. To achieve this, technological measures are also taken, e.g. setting a minimum cell size. The project team itself as well as other researchers are only permitted to use the data for statistical evaluations, i.e. for anonymised data processing.

What exactly will happen to my contact data if I participate?

Generally, the contact data will initially be held by your HEI only. In some cases, they will be passed on to us, for the sole purpose of sending invitations, after which they will be deleted.

At the end of the first survey, you will be asked to give us your contact data and your agreement to us contacting you in future for annual follow-up surveys. The information is not mandatory and will not be passed on to third parties. However, Nacaps is dependent on your long-term commitment to provide longitudinal data and we therefore would very much welcome your cooperation in providing your contact details.

Your contact data can be deleted at any time, if you so wish. In this case, please get in touch with us.

How did you obtain my address details?

We are carrying out the survey in partnership with the HEI at which you are registered as a doctoral candidate. Therefore participants will usually be invited by their HEI itself, in the form of an email with a personalised link to enable you to take part in the study. If you have already taken part and given us the consent to contact you again, you get an invitation for the follow-up surveys. We would be pleased to answer any further questions you may have about the protection of your data: Contact.

Can my HEI find out my answers?

The Nacaps findings will be made available to our partner HEIs via a data portal, where they can only see aggregated results. If smaller-scale data (microdata) are passed on to a partner HEI for analytical purposes, the data will be pseudonymised beforehand; in other words, names will be replaced by randomly generated identifiers. Partner HEIs and DZHW are contractually committed to handling data responsibly.

How and when will I find out about the study findings?

If you would like to be informed about the publication of the study findings in a timely manner, we recommend that you enter your details in our Mailing List. We also announce publications via Twitter and here on the Nacaps website.

Can I omit certain information in the questionnaire?

Yes, you can participate even if you don’t answer certain questions. However, we are of course delighted to receive the most complete information possible. To find out what research interests we pursue with individual questions, click here.