Our third of twelve days of #FoRmentors: the perception gap between lab members and lab leaders

Our third of twelve days of #FoRmentors: the perception gap between lab members and lab leaders


This is part of a series of blog posts explaining our push for centering mentoring in academia. We are organizing a meeting in Chicago in June 2019 to take action – you can learn more about the effort here.

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One of the issues we most frequently encounter at Future of Research is a gap in perception between what early career researchers experience, and what senior researchers perceive to be happening. This comes up in issues such as salaries and financial hardship; career awareness and development opportunities and even issues related to scholarship.

In “Some hard numbers on science’s leadership problems“, survey data illustrates some of these gaps in perception.

From “Some hard numbers on science’s leadership problems” in Nature, survey data illustrating the perception gaps between junior and senior lab members.

One of the reasons for our focus on mentorship is improving communication between junior and senior lab members. Often junior researchers are not communicating issues to more senior members, likely due to fears about power dynamics and the role senior members can play in career progression (we will discuss power dynamics in an upcoming post). But likewise often senior lab members are simply unaware of issues junior researchers may face, even when entirely sympathetic to them, especially when the system is more competitive than when they may have passed through it, depending on when they navigated their way through the academic system.

Greater communication is needed between researchers at all levels of the research enterprise, to fully appreciate what the realities of the system are, but also to ensure research and training are carried out in the most productive and beneficial ways possible.

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