On the fifth day of Christmas #FoRMentors gave to me….a center for mentors and trainees

On the fifth day of Christmas #FoRMentors gave to me….a center for mentors and trainees

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 FoR Board Member Juan Pablo Ruiz, the leader of the mentoring working group When I speak to folks, regardless of career stage, about my passion for improving mentoring environments and competency among biomedical researchers, especially among those who currently have students and postdocs in their labs, I’m often asked questions relating to the difficulty in defining just exactly what constitutes mentoring: “How can you define mentoring, it’s so different for everyone, and changes as you develop across a career? No one model fits all.” “How do you differentiate between supervision and mentorship?” And more often than not, “But where’s the data, and how do we know what works and what doesn’t? Aren’t most of those workshops and trainings just a waste of time?” The thing is, for how much stock most of us, as life scientists, put into data and publications, we are either unaware of, or, more unfortunately, uncomfortable with, data and publications coming from our colleagues in the social sciences. And while many of us have been asking these questions regarding mentoring and lab environments during our lunch breaks or at the pubs after a day in the lab, social scientists have actually been providing a significant amount of rigorous literature on these topics, helping us answer these questions and ask better ones. In particular, one group, known as the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN), has been providing mentoring training and assessment...
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. Donate to our mentoring effort! 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...
Our second of twelve days of #FoRmentors: addressing mental health in academia

Our second of twelve days of #FoRmentors: addressing mental health in academia

Table from “Towards sustaining a culture of mental health and wellness for trainees in the biosciences” summarizing recent studies into graduate and postdoctoral mental health. 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! The mental health of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and academics in general is a topic of great discussion but with relatively little data. A recent paper, “Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education” used a voluntary survey of graduate students to point to a high incidence of anxiety and depression, and while the paper has not gone without criticism (read here for example) it has more recently been supported by work on American Economics departments and has tapped into what is very clearly a very important topic for early career researchers: the high incidence of mental health issues, and lack of support to address them, in academia. Mentoring is one factor in the mental health of academics. The relationships between mentors and mentees, or more accurately, between the principal investigator and those who work for them, can be critical in affecting mental health. In “Towards sustaining a culture of mental health and wellness for trainees in the biosciences“, Jessica Tsai and Fanuel Muindi summarize the recent data on mental health and point to the need for shared responsibility in addressing mental health issues, and also indicate a key part of the equation: that many postdocs and graduate students themselves are...

Today at ASCB Meeting: Helping the Next Generation of Researchers: Navigating the Challenges and Answering the Call for Change

Today at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)/European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Meeting, the session “Helping the Next Generation of Researchers: Navigating the Challenges and Answering the Call for Change” will discuss the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, with copies of the National Academies “Breaking Through” report available. The session will run 2:00pm – 2:50pm PST in Theater 4. Dr. Sue Biggins (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), Dr. MariaElena Zavala (California State University, Northridge) and Dr. Christopher Pickett (Rescuing Biomedical Research) will be discussing various aspects: Dr. Christopher Pickett will describe the current landscape of issues facing the next generation of researchers, and the context for the National Academies report, “Breaking Through”. Dr. Sue Biggins will discuss issues with peer review, particularly in study sections, that affect early career researchers. Dr. MariaElena Zavala will discuss “Training Beyond the Bench: Becoming Independent”, including what may be missing in the typical postdoc experience....
Putting mentoring at the heart of academia #FoRmentors #GivingTuesday

Putting mentoring at the heart of academia #FoRmentors #GivingTuesday

Image by Lipofsky: Future of Research members at our first summit in Boston in 2014   Academia is reaching a critical turning point, where effective and positive mentoring is more necessary than ever before. A slew of recommendations, reports and surveys are showing that recognition for good mentoring and appropriate responses to poor mentoring (or even egregious behavior) are currently not up to par with the standards of excellence required to sustain the research enterprise. Most importantly,  early career researchers are recognizing this deficit, and demanding change. Failure to effect this change will cause the research enterprise to lose or squander talent.   There are a number of striking problems that can be traced back to a lack of mentoring focus by departments, institutions and funding agencies:   ⅓ of those who start biology PhDs in the U.S. do not complete them. Sexual harassment in U.S. academia is at a rate second only to the military. For foreign postdocs, precarious visa situations are being exploited to make them work more, for less. There are postdocs facing barriers to taking their own research projects with them when they leave a lab under someone else’s “mentorship”. Retention of underrepresented populations in research is hindered by a focus on diversity in numbers, rather than on generating more inclusive and welcoming environments with culturally-appropriate mentoring.   However, there is also increasing recognition of the need to center mentoring in the research enterprise: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) are currently carrying out a study, with a report due next Fall, on The Science of Mentoring in STEMM; The NASEM sexual...
National Postdoc Appreciation Week 2018 is this week!

National Postdoc Appreciation Week 2018 is this week!

Today marks the beginning of the ninth annual celebration of National Postdoc Appreciation Week (NPAW): September 17-21, 2018. You can find out more about events taking place for NPAW at the National Postdoc Association’s website here and you can follow #NPAW2018 to find out more about postdocs online.   Future of Research members are taking part in events for #NPAW2018 across the country on Monday and Tuesday – we hope to see some of you in person or online! We will be sharing our resources for postdocs, and discussing the state of the postdoc position, throughout the week:   Dr. Adriana Bankston is at the University of Southern California: “Monday, September 17 Components of a Successful Postdoc with Dr. Adriana Bankston (Future of Research) 9:00 a.m. -10:20 a.m. UPC Waite Phillips Hall (WPH) room 207 (2nd floor) Baked goods and coffee will be provided. Postdoctoral researchers are critical to the future of science. Fair pay, opportunities for meaningful leadership positions, and access to positive mentoring are critical factors of a successful postdoc experience. These factors are also likely to influence the decisions of postdocs on which institutions they will choose for conducting independent research, as well as whether to remain in academe or pursue other career paths. Read more.”   Dr. Gary McDowell is at Washington University in St. Louis: “Monday, September 17 Advocacy Workshop with Future of Research and the WashU Postdoc Society Executive Council 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Medical Campus What are the issues and barriers postdocs face at WashU? How can individual postdocs fix problems? What role does the WashU Postdoc Society have in affecting change? Gary McDowell, Ph.D., executive director of The Future...