Surviving the PhD – Edition 2013

surviving phd

Alberto Di Minin



At Scuola Sant’Anna, Doctoral Students in Management receive a special treatment. Surviving is a course I have designed whose goal is to introduce first years students to the PhD life, giving them an idea about what it takes to go through the program, and at the same time provide them with some methods, in a very interactive and colloquial way. Each of the lectures in “Surviving the PhD” is given by a colleague that is working at another university and offers his/her perspective on academic business, by presenting a paper and commenting on a specific issues regarding the making-of the paper.
In other words, we try and go behind the scenes of academic work,  learning the details of certain aspects that are quintessential for a successful doctorate: data gathering, framing of the research question, definition of the model, submission and interaction with the reviewers, funding, and getting ready for the job market.
During the first introductory class, my students define with me a list of topics that they think needs to be covered during Surviving. How to deal with reviewers? How to position your paper? How to balance your time between applied project and your research? Things like that.
For every lecture there are readings to be done before coming to class, and assignment questions that need to be submitted by email one week before class.
This class is compulsory for First Year students in Management.
Second years and students from other programs are welcome, but should email Alberto to get the readings and assignment. Here is the blend of flavors we present for the 2013 edition of Surviving.
Students are required to check from time to time as I will post here reading and questions


– April 16th Alberto Di Minin
Introduction and Literature Review


– May 9th Dries Faems (University of Groningen)

Dealing with Reviewers and Editors
(play nice & get publish)

Dries Faems is Full Professor at the Faculty of Economics and Business (University of Groningen) and Affiliated Researcher at the Research Centre of Organisation Studies (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven). He became Doctor in Applied Economics (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 2006) with a thesis which was a finalist of the 2007 BPS Best Dissertation Competition. His current research focuses on the management of ambidextrous innovation strategies, performance implications of alliance portfolios and the governance of transitional governance trajectories.


  • Faems et al. Submission to AMJ: “Governing Interfirm Relationships: Towards an Enriched Understanding of Contract Design and Application”
  • AMJ Response letter


Study Questions (Submit by email by May 7th)

  • In preparation for this module you should review the paper that is attached in the document called ‘Governing interfirm relationships final draft.’   This paper was written by me and some colleagues.  This is the first version of the paper as initially submitted to the journal Academy of Management Journal. Your first task is to conduct a half a page review of this paper as though you had been asked by the journal editor to act as a reviewer.
  • After you have reviewed this paper, please take a look at the document called ‘Response letter.’ In this document, you will find the response of the associate editor and three reviewers. Your second task is to write 1 page in which you outline the strategy that you would follow to address the response letter. In particular you should (i) identify the core problems of the paper and (ii) try to formulate potential solutions to address them.


– May 16th Francesco Rullani (LUISS University)

Dealing with Reviewers and Editors II
(Positioning your PhD Thesis into the right Journal into the right Management Journal)

Francesco Rullani is Assistant Professor at LUISS Guido Carli. He has been Assistant Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Junior Researcher at Fondazione ENI Enrico Mattei, Visiting Fellow at Stanford and Bocconi. He received his Ph.D. from Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies. His research focuses on creation of knowledge by self-organizing organizations, and has been published in journals such as Industrial and Corporate Change, Research Policy, International Journal of Industrial Organization, and Industry and Innovation.


Kopczuk, W., & Slemrod, J. 2003. Dying to save taxes: Evidence from Estate-tax returns on the death elasticity. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 85(2): 256-265.

Study Questions (Submit by email by May 15th)
detailed instructions by Francesco can be found here

  • What granted Kopczuk and Slemrod the IgNobel prize ( How would you have developed that research (in better way)?
  • Imagine there is a rich grant funding a 20-year project aimed at demonstrating the Fermat’s Last Theorem. You decide to apply. How do you plan to develop such project?


– May 31st Marcel Bogers (University of Southern Denmark)

The international dimension of a doctorate: building up your network, collaborations, conferences, co-authors and periods abroad
(the world is your oyster)

Marcel is Associate Professor of Innovation Management at the University of Southern Denmark. He received a M.Sc. from Eindhoven University of Technology and a Ph.D. in Management of Technology from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). His area of interest covers technology and innovation management in general and open innovation in particular. He has received honors that highlight excellence in research and teaching, and he has been an invited speaker at various academic and corporate events around the globe.


Study Questions (Submit by email by May 24th)

  • What are the key aspects of the international dimension of Alberto’s and Marcel’s doctorate and career, and how do they leverage these for their career development?
  • What do you think are the main opportunities and constraints for developing the international dimension of the doctorate in your own personal situation?


– June 3rd Federico Frattini (Politecnico di Milano)

Balancing your PhD life between applied projects (that pay for your salary..),
learning & research (to build up your career)

Federico Frattini is Assistant Professor at the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering of Politecnico di Milano. He is Vice-Director of the Evening Executive MBA Program at MIP, the Business School of Politecnico di Milano, where he is also responsible for the Corporate Strategy teaching programs. He is one of the founder of Energy & Strategy Group (, a team within Politecnico di Milano that is engaged in research and consultancy activities in the area of renewable energy, energy efficiency and circular economy. Energy & Strategy Group has been working with companies like Eni, Enel Green Power, Siemens, ABB, Edison, Sorgenia, E.On. RWE and many others, helping them understand the strategic and market dynamics affecting the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency markets in Italy and Europe.


  • Birkinshaw, J., & Gibson, C. 2004. Building ambidexterity into an organization. Mit Sloan Management Review(Summer).

Study Questions (Submit by email by May 31st)

  • What are the individual capabilities required for a PhD student to excel in (i) academic research, and (ii) applied research/consultancy?
  • What can you learn from the concept of ambidexterity that can be useful, during your PhD, to find the right balance between (i) academic research, and (ii) applied research/consultancy?



– June 13th Mattia Bianchi (Stockholm School of Economics)

How not to make a fool of yourself on the job market
(yes there is life after the PhD and you need to prepare yourself for it)

Mattia Bianchi is Docent / Associate Professor (untenured) and tenure-track Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Stockholm School of Economics. He is also an affiliated external professor at the Institute of Management, Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa. Mattia holds a PhD in Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering from Politecnico di Milano. His main research areas are technology & innovation management, international business and energy economics.




Bennis, W. G. & O’Toole, J. 2005. How business schools lost their way. Harvard Business Review, 83(5): 96-104.

Study Questions (Submit by email by June 10th)

  • Do you agree with the authors’ view that Business Schools should strike a new balance between scientific rigor and practical relevance?
    –          If yes, do you try to achieve that balance in your personal day-by-day work life as Ph.D. candidate in Management? How?
    –          If not, why not? Do you see yourself as a “worshipper of methodolatry” or as a “down-to-the-earth popularizer”? Why?
  • After reading the article’s message and contents, is there anything you will change in your work philosophy and practice?
  • Speaking of getting a job in academia (assuming that you are interested, even if remotely!!)…what is your strategy for the future: adapt your work and style to the existing hiring system at Business Schools (which is described in the article), or develop and follow your own standard of excellence in the hope that the hiring system of Business Schools will change in the future?