FoR Chicago 2019: Mentoring Future Scientists
The importance that departments and institutions attach to supporting good mentorship, and providing mechanisms for accountability and addressing poor mentorship, have become an issue of intense scrutiny for early career researchers. Future of Research is organizing a meeting on June 14th 2019, dedicated to greater prioritization of mentoring practices in departments and at institutions.
About the meeting
Academic departments, research institutions, and funding agencies receive taxpayer funding not only to carry out research, but to fulfill their responsibility for developing early career scientists to their full potential. However, they have all historically neglected to prioritize mentoring as a key concern in producing researchers, compared with metrics of research productivity. We propose that a lack of focus on mentoring is partly responsible for preventing ECRs from reaching their full potential. What is the evidence to support this claim?
- ½ of students who start graduate degrees in the U.S. do not complete them.
- Sexual harassment rates in academia are second only to the military in the US.
- Foreign researchers in precarious visa situations are being exploited to work more for less pay.
- Scientists struggle to take their own research with them when starting their own labs.
- Scientists from historically underrepresented groups are leaving a career path that has failed to create an inclusive and welcoming work environment.
- Ph.D. students are at high risk of mental health issues.
We are not alone in this concern: research funders and academic organizations are increasingly recognizing this mentoring crisis:
- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) are studying The Science of Mentoring in STEM, due to come out in Fall 2019.
- A NASEM sexual harassment report points to the need for multiple mentors to guide a researcher’s career.
- A NASEM report on Graduate Education recommends giving institutional support to mentoring.
- The National Institute of General Medical Sciences identified bad mentoring as a key barrier to scientists’ career progression.
- The National Institutes of Health Working Group on the Next Generation of Researchers recommends the agency require interventions to ensure adequate mentoring of junior researchers, including written mentoring plans.
However, as one attendee at a recent NASEM meeting noted: “Mentoring involves people, and reports won’t do much.”
Therefore, Future of Research are organizing a meeting to push for action. Long-term, we are hoping for greater transparency for ECRs regarding mentoring efforts, and greater attention to mentoring standards by departments and institutions. The short-term outcome for our meeting is to develop an agreed set of guidelines and to get a commitment from participating departments to adopt them.
What is the meeting aiming to do?
- Develop a set of guidelines across various departmental mentoring climate domains with three excellence tiers: bronze, silver, and gold, to be used as an assessment tool by both departmental leaders wishing to commit to actionable improvement, and by early career researchers and faculty wishing to advocate for and drive this change themselves.
- Enlist a number of departments signing their support for said guidelines and their department’s commitment to review and implement guidelines, beginning with the most basic mutually agreed short-term actions.
The guidelines, divided into domains and excellence tiers, alongside list of departmental signatories, will be publicly hosted on the Future of Research website. Individual departments can display the guidelines, and their commitment to the various excellence tiers across domains, on their own websites and promotional material.
To achieve this, the meeting will consist of a series of workshops with participants at a central location in Chicago, and remotely at satellite meetings. They will focus on:
- The necessary mentoring climate domains to be included in the guidelines.
- The feasibility of implementation of excellence tiers to allow for ease of departmental buy-in and implementation, while simultaneously driving improvement.
The sharing of innovative practices, resources, and strategies currently available for departments, junior faculty, and ECRs should help both shape these conversations and set the feasibility and value of the excellence tiers.
June 14th, 2019
9:00 – 9:20 Opening remarks to frame need, background, and desired goals
9:30 – 10:45 Framing Big Picture Needs, and Areas for Improvement
Early Career Researchers:
Dr. Susanna Harris, The PhDepression LLC (https://www.thephdepression.com/)
Dr. Kathryn Milligan-Myhre, Assistant Professor for the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alaska Anchorage
11:00 – 11:30 Reconvene for discussion of outcomes from ECR, Departmental, and Satellite workshops 11:30 – 12:00 Keynote Presentation
Dr. Melissa McDaniels, Senior Advisor to the Dean for Research Mentoring, Graduate School and Postdoctoral Office, Michigan State University; Investigator, Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research; Co-Director, Master Facilitator Initiative, National Research Mentoring Network
1:20 – 2:30 Defining Excellence Tiers for Various Mentoring Domains
Dr. Danika Khong and Dr. Elizabeth Wu, Scismic
2:30 – 3:30 Reconvene as a large group for discussion
How can you participate?
The central meeting and workshops will be held in Chicago, with remote participation from around the country.
- Come join us!
We have opened up registration to the central meeting in Chicago here. We are particularly keen to involve graduate students and postdocs; junior faculty; and representatives of departments or graduate programs.We have a suggested donation of $100 to help cover conference costs but for ECRs, and those for whom the cost is prohibitive, we ask you to sign up here instead.
- Join us remotely!
We are looking for help in hosting satellite meetings around the country. We will be able to stream the talks and workshops to facilitate remote participation in the meeting, and we need your help! Please see our satellite meetings guide: Mentoring satellites.
Satellite meetings are being held at:
- Get your departments to join us!
We are particularly interested in hearing from departmental representatives – those with experiments on mentoring under way, those interested in hearing from others and resource-sharing, and those potentially willing to be pilot signatories on the guidelines. Please pass the flyer below along to people in your institution who you think could help us with the departmental/institutional perspective and are interested in seeing mentorship take a more central role in departmental interests.
Who is helping us?
We have already identified experts and stakeholders who are essential to the functioning of the meeting, and have created a Steering Committee to involve them in the process of the meeting planning and organization. Members include:
- Joanne Kamens, Addgene:
- Elizabeth Wu and Danika Kong, Scismic:
- Bruce Alberts, University of California San Francisco:
- Nancy Schwartz, University of Chicago:
- Michelle Swanson, University of Michigan:
- Sarah Hokanson, Boston University:
- Nathan Vanderford, University of Kentucky;
- Elba Serrano, New Mexico State University;
- Geleana Drew Alston, North Carolina A&T University;
- Veronica Womack, Northwestern University;
- Denise Hien, Rutgers University;
- Gonzalo Torres, CUNY School of Medicine;
- Michael Zigmond, University of Pittsburgh;
- Antonio Nuñez, Michigan State University; and
- Laura O’Dell, University of Texas El Paso.
If you would like to support this effort, or also know of others who would be willing to support it, please check out our GoFundMe page and the #FoRmentors hashtag on social media for more information!
Please help to support this effort – check out our GoFundMe page and the #FoRmentors hashtag on social media for more information!
We particularly want to thank our #FoRmentors heroes, who donated or provided matching funds to obtain $1000 donations:
Angela De Pace
Harvard Medical School Department of Systems Biology
Each #FoRmentors hero will be receiving a hand-stitched #FoRmentors tote bag!
Image by Lipofsky: Future of Research members at our first summit in Boston in 2014