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...
This #GivingTuesday, let’s put mentoring at the heart of academia!

This #GivingTuesday, let’s put mentoring at the heart of academia!

Future of Research is bringing mentoring back to the heart of academia.   Mentoring the next generation of scientists is critical to the future of research. Unfortunately, academia has lost its focus on the development and wellbeing of young scientists. This has led to problems including: Mental health problems at crisis levels, Sexual harassment in academia at levels second in the U.S. only to the military, and Creating barriers to scholarly independence and academic freedom As an organization built by and for young scientists, we can see the profound effects this culture has on our up and coming scientific talent first hand. Poor mentoring and egregious behavior can be a selection factor in who stays in research regardless of ability, and can particularly affect those from populations underrepresented in academia. Future of Research is committed to making a better and more successful academic environment for everybody. We are developing a framework for mentoring evaluation, to introduce accountability and to act as an incentive for institutions to pay more attention to the environments they are providing for their academics. We have a proposal to kickstart discussion on how to succeed in this mission. Key roadblocks to inspiring and ethical mentoring which we seek to overcome with this project are: Awareness of mentoring best practices; Incentives for positive mentoring; and Accountability for egregious behavior. We are building a consortium of partner organizations and are also looking for “early adopter” institutional partners to pilot a possible evaluation mechanism. Our goal is for these initial steps to culminate in a Mentoring Summit at University of Chicago in June 2019.   How can you...
Contact your Senators to request they ask the NIH Director why the NIH continues to give grants to scientists found guilty of sexual harassment

Contact your Senators to request they ask the NIH Director why the NIH continues to give grants to scientists found guilty of sexual harassment

On Thursday, August 23, at 10 AM EDT the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will hold a hearing entitled “Prioritizing Cures: Science and Stewardship at the National Institutes of Health”. The hearing will be webcast here. Last week Senate HELP Ranking Member Patty Murray sent a letter to Dr. Francis Collins, who will be testifying at the meeting, posing a number of questions about how NIH handles sexual harassment among funded investigators. They draw attention to the NIH’s role in this problem, ask for evidence of the NIH’s actions to date, and request policy change. Francis Collins, Hannah Valentine and Michael Lauer wrote a letter to Nature in 2016 about the need for policy changes.   We are asking you to join those who have a started a campaign to contact elected representatives on the HELP Committee. A graduate student at Yale, Sarah Smaga, has produced a call script for the HELP Committee Meeting including the names and telephone numbers of Senators on the committee which you can access here. The call asks for specific policies to ensure that those found guilty of sexual harassment are not able to receive NIH funding, enabling them to put more trainees and their careers at risk.   Two members of the committee are particularly focused on prospects of early career researchers: Susan Collins of Maine and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin led a bipartisan effort focused on trainees that resulted in the Next Generation Researchers Initiative at NIH being mandated under the 21st Century Cures Act. It seeks to improve prospects for early career researchers, paying attention to recommendations from a study at the...
Mentoring: Catalyzing the Next Generation of Scientists webinar with Union of Concerned Scientists

Mentoring: Catalyzing the Next Generation of Scientists webinar with Union of Concerned Scientists

Scientists today are increasingly needed in advocacy and policy efforts, as well as conducting research, securing funding, and teaching classes, and we need to ensure that we foster all of this in the next generation of scientists. How can you ensure that you develop a working mentor-mentee relationship in the sciences, to further academic, advocacy and policy goals? Following on from our mentoring tweetchat and meeting at College Park (stay tuned for our write-up of the event), in collaboration with The Science Network at the Union of Concerned Scientists we invite you to a webinar featuring mentor/mentee pair Sandra Schmid and Ashley Lakoduk from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who will offer strategies and resources that are currently available to mentors. Mentoring: Catalyzing the Next Generation of Scientists Date: Thursday, October 12 Time: 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT / 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. PDT Register for the Webinar Today...
FoR public statement on the “Next Generation Researchers Initiative” study at the National Academies

FoR public statement on the “Next Generation Researchers Initiative” study at the National Academies

The Board of Future of Research has submitted the following to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine study, the “Next Generation Researchers Initiative”. As Executive Director Gary McDowell and President Jessica Polka are both members of the study committee, they recused themselves from drafting this statement:   Future of Research advocates for training early career researchers to be successful in independent research careers, and the long-term sustainment of such careers. As an organization, we provide opportunities for and encourage early career researchers to speak up about issues they have experienced within the scientific system, while also collecting and analyzing data to identify ways the system should change to better fit their career preparation needs.   The Next Generation Researchers Initiative study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, brings much of our own concerns to light in terms of the barriers encountered by researchers when transitioning into independent research careers. One of the biggest barriers is the lack of career guidance and support needed to prepare them for successfully transitioning into a variety of research intensive roles within and outside of academia. The Committee could make a positive impact by gathering data on what researchers in these fields need (including longitudinal studies) and encouraging universities and research institutes to implement career development programs to help them in this transition.   More broadly exposing early career researchers to multiple types of research experiences could be achieved by internships and other programs at the university level, enabling them to become better prepared for research intensive careers. We recommend the Committee discuss how mentors can encourage trainees to...
How should we mentor junior scientists? Reflections from a Twitter chat

How should we mentor junior scientists? Reflections from a Twitter chat

This is a guest post by Future of Research board member, Adriana Bankston.   Mentoring junior scientists is one of the most important aspects of academia. Effective mentoring can help young, inexperienced scientists develop into confident, independent and valuable contributors to science and society. Typically, we think of mentors as being faculty members in an academic setting. They are in a position to shape how trainees develop in academia, which is a great responsibility. To a large extent, therefore, culture change begins with the faculty.   On the other hand, not all faculty are effective mentors. In an academic culture dominated by hypercompetition, mentoring might be less emphasized as compared to publication. However, producing trained scientists should be the goal of academia, which is why mentoring is critical to the entire enterprise.   Providing effective mentoring to graduate students and postdocs typically requires a large amount of time and effort, constructive feedback, and a well-defined long-term strategy. It also takes flexibility and adaptability to the needs and goals of the mentee, which is sometimes overshadowed the needs of faculty.   Also, anyone can be a mentor – not just the faculty. Graduate students often mentor undergraduates for an entire summer or a semester in the lab, and postdocs can teach graduate students new concepts and valuable research practices within the lab. Therefore, all of these efforts count as mentoring, and should be properly incentivized and rewarded in academia.   Some of the ideas outlined above, as well as many other great ideas on the topic of mentoring, have emerged during a productive and informative Twitter chat discussion. The event...