Departmental Guidelines

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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.

Supplemental Mentoring Support
Peer Support Cohorts
Required Mentor Training
Anonymous Exit Interviews
Clear Guidelines and Timelines
Career Development Resources
Not Implemented
Encourages more mentors in addition to the PI or does nothing.
Provides no formal organization of peer cohorts.
Encourages PIs to take mentor training or does nothing.
Encourages some form of anonymous exit survey or does nothing.
Encourages PIs to provide clear guidelines and timelines for completion or does nothing.
Encourages PIs to provide career guidance for trainees or does nothing.
Expresses expectation that trainees find, and that professors provide, additional mentorship.
Groups incoming trainees into peer cohorts and organizes social events for interaction and networking.
Requires all PIs to take mentor training at least once before supervising PhD or postdoctoral trainees.
Collects data from required anonymous exit surveys and uses it for department improvement.
Has clear and appropriate checkpoints for completion of training, monitored by PI, trainee, and a third-party and requires. mentor/mentee compacts
Hosts career-specific panels and workshops. Trainees are required to attend at least one, and are allowed to choose those of interest. An individual development plan is required for all incoming trainees, with minimal yearly check-ins with the PI and an additional mentor.
Requires 1 co-mentor in addition to the PI or thesis committee (for grad students) to oversee the trainee’s progression and address personal and professional needs.
Pairs incoming trainees with at least one other, more senior peer mentor in the department.
Requires all PIs take recurring mentor training. Data on mentor training is publicly available to trainees.
Makes summary data from anonymous exit surveys publicly available and disseminates it to incoming trainees.
Provides all incoming trainees and their supervisors with a list of departmental expectations for the supervisor and the trainee, which both must sign. Mentoring plans/requirements for trainees on non-training grants are modeled after training grant (e.g., NIH T32, F31/32) requirements.
Has a discipline-specific career development office or person. Career and professional development activities and workshops are integrated into the training curriculum. The department regularly reports on graduation and employment data and promotes this among prospective trainees.
Requires the creation of a mentoring committee to oversee trainee progression and address personal and professional needs. Regularly assesses how well committee meets individual mentoring needs.
Groups all incoming trainees into Peer Mentor groups. The department has a trained facilitator on staff to conduct regular peer mentor meetings.
Requires all PIs, lab personnel, and trainees in supervisory roles to take recurring mentor training.
Collects alumni data in follow-up surveys (e.g. 2 years later). Exceptional service and mentoring are rewarded. Patterns of harmful behavior are addressed.
Has limits on the number of years that can be spent in the training program, and provides appropriate pathways for career advancement to postdoc and staff scientist or independent positions.
Supports trainees exploring career choices through internships and fellowships and keeps an updated list of program alumni for use by current trainees as potential career mentors and networking.


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.