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Mentoring future scientists
The quality of mentoring and training that graduate students and postdocs receive varies widely across departments and institutions. Simultaneously, there is a lack of funding incentives and oversight of mentoring to promote intentional, evidence-based practices.
Here, we provide actionable, community-developed guidelines that ECRs can use to advocate for concrete improvements to their training environments and that leadership can use to improve training for ECRs.
In 2017, Future of Research convened a meeting of Washington D.C. area postdoctoral fellows at UMD-College Park to discuss the intentional mentoring of postdocs. Postdocs at this meeting identified a lack of engagement, incentives, and accountability as barriers to effective mentorship practices. Following this meeting, FoR organized a second meeting in 2019 at the BIG10 College Center in Rosemont, IL. Six satellite meetings were also held in collaboration with postdoctoral and graduate student associations at University of Wisconsin – Madison, Ohio State University, Boston University, University of Michigan, University of California – Berkeley, and University of California – Irvine. University administrators and leadership, faculty, postdocs, and graduate students all worked together to develop mentorship and training guidelines to aid in advocacy and departmental climate improvement.
The guidelines developed from meeting workshops encompass 6 major areas and 3 excellence tiers to serve as a guide for STEM departments. While they were developed to be implemented at the department level, institutions with different ways of coordinating oversight training for graduate and postdoctoral trainees should adapt the guidelines accordingly. In the context of these guidelines, “department” can also refer to a specific training program or office that oversees multiple trainees across research groups. Excellence tiers within a single guideline build upon each other.
Future of Research presented these guidelines at both SACNAS and the UNM Mentoring meeting in 2019. Guidelines have been featured in talks by other faculty and STEM education professionals. Currently, our website hosts an entry form where trainees can input the excellence level of their department so that other incoming trainees may use that data when making career decisions.