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...
“On the First Day of Mentoring, #FoRmentors gave to me: a mentor who needs recognizing”

“On the First Day of Mentoring, #FoRmentors gave to me: a mentor who needs recognizing”

Donate to our mentoring effort! Over the last 12 days of 2018, we want to discuss various aspects, and release details about, our meeting to Put Mentoring at the Heart of Academia in Chicago, June 14th 2019. You can read more details about the meeting here, and we’ll be updating the page as we go along! We are continuing to fundraise through the end of the year – at time of writing, we have raised just under $11,000 towards the meeting from our Giving Tuesday efforts, so please continue to share our GoFundMe and join the conversation online at #FoRmentors! The first discussion we want to kick off is a key component of our mentoring project: the lack of recognition for good mentors. This post is written by our Executive Director, Gary McDowell. On one of my recent trips, I was sitting in an airport eating dinner with a professor. We got to talking about mentorship in academia, and the professor mentioned one of their personal training activities. This professor would encourage a postdoc to write a grant application, would then edit it and work with them to improve it, and then submit it under the professor’s name, because postdocs can’t apply for these kinds of grants themselves. If the grant was awarded, the professor would then write in the postdoc’s letters of support for faculty positions that the grant was the postdoc’s in all but name, and that the postdoc was capable of getting independent funding, both by virtue of having been trained to do it, and being critical to the award being made. It may not be an ideal situation, but certainly worked to the best...
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...