Who can join?

Which kind of people are welcome to make a PhD in ECCO?

First and foremost, people are attracted to ECCO because of their enthusiasm for our research philosophy, i.e. the very broad and deep, transdisciplinary perspective on how complex, intelligent systems emerge and evolve. Most present ECCO researchers have joined because they found an open-mindedness and depth of thinking here that is rare in other academic institutions, and because they didn't quite see where else their own ideas might fit in. However, enthusiasm and motivation, while definitely helpful, is not sufficient to engage in international-level research.

Since it was announced on the Principia Cybernetica Webpage, our program offering interdisciplinary PhDs has to some degree become the victim of its own success, attracting more candidates than we can comfortably handle. (in 2004 alone not less than 5 new PhD students joined ECCO, and many more applied). Our research center is not yet large enough to provide much supervision, infrastructure or financial support. This means that we have to be very selective in accepting further PhD candidates.

We give preference to the people that best satisfy the following general criteria:

  • show unusual intellectual capabilities, in particular creativity, capability for abstraction, analytical and synthetic thinking
  • have a solid education in at least one academic discipline, whether in technology, natural sciences, social sciences, or humanities
  • are very open-minded, willing to explore ideas and approaches very different from their original background (e.g. art for a physicist, mathematics for a philosopher, or biology for a sociologist)
  • wish to focus on a research subject that fits in with on-going research at ECCO
  • are able to work largely autonomously, with little direct supervision
  • have enough maturity, self-discipline and emotional stability to successfully carry through the long and uncertain process of preparing a PhD
  • can find their own financial support (possibly with our assistance)
  • are willing to collaborate with, and give/receive mutual support to/from, other PhD students at our center

These criteria are fuzzy and to some degree subjective. It is unlikely that any one candidate would perfectly fit all requirements. However, a high score on some criteria (e.g. exceptional intellectual capacities) may to some degree compensate for failing to fulfil another criterion (e.g. lack of independent financial support). Therefore, these criteria should not be seen as strict admission requirements, but rather as guidelines that will help candidates estimate how well they fit the profile.


Applying for membership

If you think you recognize yourself in this profile, and moreover seem to fulfil the formal requirements for admission as a PhD student at the VUB, you can apply in the following way:

  • send an email application to the ECCO director, Francis Heylighen, explaining in some detail why you would like to do research in ECCO, and what your initial research ideas or interests are
  • indicate whether you think you can get financial support on your own
  • attach your full curriculum vitae, with your educational (and possibly professional) experience
  • attach if at all possible any representative texts you have written (e.g. papers, bachelor's or master's thesis, essays, even short stories...) that can give us an impression of how you develop and explain your ideas (even if only a review of existing literature). These need not be about the subject on which you would like to do research, but are very helpful for us to estimate your writing and thinking capabilities.

If your application appears to fit with the general profile, you will be invited for a personal meeting at the center, so that we can talk in more depth about your and our research ideas, and get to know you in the flesh. If here too our impression is positive, we will immediately start discussing the practical issues that need to be tackled for you to start working in ECCO.