FoR Chicago 2019: Mentoring Future Scientists – Join us locally or remotely to help departments focus on mentoring

FoR Chicago 2019: Mentoring Future Scientists – Join us locally or remotely to help departments focus on mentoring

If you follow academic discussions on Twitter, you may have caught sight of a discussion recently about grad school experiences prompted by Dr Kathryn Milligan-Myhre at the University of Alaska:   For those of you who had/are now having a difficult time in grad school, what support was/is lacking? If you don’t feel comfortable posting from your handle, PM me, I will post for you. — Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre (@Napaaqtuk) March 24, 2019 What followed was a long thread of experiences and messages received by Dr. Milligan-Myhre detailing a multitude of problems including stories of power-imbalances, and departmental or institutional inaction. Stories such as these are familiar to us over at Future of Research; it’s part of the motivation behind our efforts. Having fostered this dicussion, Dr. Milligan-Myhre then posed the question to departmental staff and faculty:   Faculty/GS dept people: These stories are heartbreaking, but an accurate picture of grad school for many of our students. Next step: What are YOU going to do to make grad school experiences better for students? https://t.co/DPK8u7GqEj — Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre (@Napaaqtuk) March 29, 2019 If you’ve been following our work over the last few months, you may be aware that FoR is organizing the Mentoring Future Scientists meeting (primarily in Chicago, but facilitating remote participation through satellite meetings) to bring together graduate students, postdocs, junior faculty and departmental leaders and representatives, to discuss what departments can do to prioritize attention to mentoring.   The importance that departments and institutions attach to supporting good mentorship, and providing mechanisms for accountability and addressing poor mentorship, have become an issue of intense scrutiny for...
Achieving independence in research career transitions

Achieving independence in research career transitions

On March 13th 2019, FoR ED Gary McDowell led a workshop, “Training Transitions: Pathways to Independence in Research” at the University of California Irvine School of Biological Sciences.   What does “independence” mean for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers? The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study for The Next Generation Researchers Initiative (of which FoR ED Dr. Gary McDowell and FoR President Dr. Jessica Polka were members) took the definition of independence from a previous 2005 Academies study, Bridges to Independence:   “The definition of ‘independence’ as a researcher in a tenure-track faculty position who has received his or her first R01 research project grant is outdated… …we define an ‘independent investigator’ as one who enjoys independence of thought… …In addition, the committee has affirmed the interconnectedness of scientific research and research training. Mentoring and research training cannot be separated from scientific research for anyone in postdoctoral- or graduate student- positions and should not be considered as separate objectives.””   The barriers that early career researchers (undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty) may face in establishing themselves as independent scholars are a topic of increasing discussion, in an ever more hypercompetitive academic environment. For example, a major issue for postdocs is the tension between being supported from research project grants, fulfilling the aims of someone else’s research project, rather than being in the ideal postdoc position of developing their own research project and goals, and learning how to lead a project, with mentorship from another investigator. This is just one example of the conflict that has arisen between fostering academic scholarship, and providing the labor for...
On our twelfth and final day of #FoRmentors: power structures, power dynamics and anti-racism in systemic changes to mentoring

On our twelfth and final day of #FoRmentors: power structures, power dynamics and anti-racism in systemic changes to mentoring

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. Donate to our mentoring effort!   This is a post by BoD member Dr. Kaliris Salas-Ramirez. This takes us into January, which is National Mentoring Month. We will continue to discuss mentoring and provide updates as our conference planning progresses here.   Mentorship, leadership, institutional policies and systemic change should be something that researchers, as part of institutions, should always be thinking about. Understanding power structures, power dynamics and engaging in bias training that includes learning about racism as a social construct, is critical for bringing about transformative change in the sciences.  As professionals committed to innovation and improving the lives of others, understanding these different aspects of systems will allow us to deepen our mentoring relationships within our laboratories and departments. These play a critical role in the development of scientists at every career level and can elevate the voices of even the most marginalized and oppressed groups to promote equity in the research enterprise. Based on my lived experiences, identities and roles, I have many things to say when it comes to privilege, bias, racism and relationships in the academy. I am a Puerto Rican Neuroscientist that trained at Michigan State University (the first to graduate with a doctorate from an underrepresented group (URG), Black and Latinx, in Neuroscience) and is currently faculty at the CUNY School of Medicine (one of three people of color with PhD’s in the...

On our eleventh day of mentoring, #FoRmentors gave to me: how and why we want to help mentoring!

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. Donate to our mentoring effort! We are focused on our project to center mentoring as a priority at academic institutions. We are organizing a meeting in Chicago on June 14th 2019 that is looking on what changes, and importantly how to effect them, need to take place in departments and institutions. We are aiming to bring together those working in this space already, and are discussing our proposal for a third-party to evaluate mentoring at the departmental and institutional levels. We have released a brochure summarizing the meeting, and in brief what we are doing and why we are doing it. We are calling for abstracts from those who may have best practices to share, particularly from who are not at the research-intensive institutions on which these efforts usually focus. If you would like to submit an abstract, or know of someone who would be interested, please submit using this link. We also aim to have satellite meetings, live-streaming the Chicago talks to campuses around the country but allowing departments or institutions interested in moving forward in the mentoring space to hear the discussions and discuss how to take action. Please let us know if you think your campus/organization might be interested in providing a space for a satellite meeting, by emailing info@futureofresearch.org We are still asking for help in raising funds for this meeting, and hope that maybe at the end of the...
On our tenth day of #FoRmentors, some reading:”Transforming mentorship in STEM by training scientists to be better leaders”

On our tenth day of #FoRmentors, some reading:”Transforming mentorship in STEM by training scientists to be better 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. Donate to our mentoring effort!   Today we wanted to share some reading, “Transforming mentorship in STEM by training scientists to be better leaders” – and the blogpost by the authors explaining the paper in Small Pond Science – for those who have not yet seen it.   The authors provide survey data pointing to both the need and desire for better mentoring, and suggests best practices, including resources and a model implemented at the University of Colorado Boulder.   Donate to our mentoring effort!...
On our eighth day of #FoRmentors, mentorship in diversifying the professoriate

On our eighth day of #FoRmentors, mentorship in diversifying the professoriate

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. Donate to our mentoring effort!   This is a guest post by a member of the FoR Board of Directors, Dr. Jack Nicoludis.   Despite diversity initiatives throughout the biomedical research enterprise, from institutions to funding agencies, there is still a lack of diversity in academia, with the least amount of diversity in the highest positions. While enrollment in PhD programs by underrepresented minority (URM) students has increased significantly (from 2.5 to 9% of the total population of graduate students in basic sciences from 1980 to 2014), URM assistant faculty have grown only moderately (3.9% to 5.8%) (Gibbs et al., 2014). In fact, Gibbs et al. (2014) found, using a model of the pathway from graduate student to faculty, that the percentage of URM graduate students is statistically uncoupled from the URM hiring rate. Here I will discuss how improving mentoring may be a way to increase diversity in academia.   Within the corporate world, there is also a problem retaining and promoting URM workers (Dobbin and Kalev, 2016). Many measures to combat workplace discrimination, such as mandatory diversity trainings, fail to increase diversity and in some cases even show regression in diversity. Even more poignantly, when grievance systems fail to seriously investigate claims, workers stop speaking up and companies become oblivious to discrimination problems. In this example we can see a clear parallel to a major discrimination issue in...