Future of Research's Origins

The first Future of Research conference was held in Boston in October of 2014.

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Outcomes of FOR

We published the proceedings and outcomes of our first FOR meeting in 2014.

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FOR conferences are organized by grassroots scientists in their local areas.
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Our latest blog posts

Survey: Help the eLife ECR community find out about mentoring environments

The eLife ECR community currently has a survey open, until June 1st, with the goal of Assessing the quality of mentorship in research environments.   They are looking for responses from around the world, from the perspective of early-career researchers. They have surveys for pre-independence (i.e. graduate and postdoc) and junior group leaders/scientists/faculty. The 5-7 minute surveys ask whether about mentoring they receive from those in later career stages. In their own words: “We aim to surface what mentees believe is most important for a positive mentoring experience and to identify common gaps in skills or resources that can be addressed. We also hope that the findings will help us understand the factors that negatively impact the mentee-mentor relationships in research environments. The results will serve as a basis to offer recommendations for maximizing the benefits of mentoring in academia.”   As part of our effort to create a greater focus on mentoring in departments, we are of course very keen to see their findings and how they can inform our work, so please complete the survey and share it with your colleagues!   Don’t forget – Future of Research is organizing a meeting focused on mentorship – registration closes May 14th for the Chicago meeting: Mentoring Future Scientists Lack of prioritization of mentoring practices is partly responsible for preventing ECRs from reaching their fullest potential as the next generation of leaders in STEM. To cultivate a productive training environment, those who are given training responsibilities should also be trained, supported and evaluated by institutions to provide competent and appropriate mentoring to the next generation.   To ensure mentoring is an institutional...

Mentoring Future Scientists: The role of grads and postdocs as mentors

Future of Research is organizing a meeting to develop a set of departmental mentoring climate guidelines, with the potential to be used as an assessment tool by departmental leaders wishing to commit to actionable departmental improvement, and by ECRs to establish which departments are centering good mentorship in their priorities. To join the meeting in Chicago, or at one of our satellites around the US, see the conference page here!   We often talk about the idea of academic mentorship in terms of a professor fostering the career of a researcher earlier in their career, such as a graduate student or postdoc. But of course the reality is that many graduate students and postdocs are themselves mentoring others themselves, including undergraduates. Two recent pieces discuss mentorship by “trainees” from a personal perspective, and in a scientific paper.   In Symbiosis: the mutual benefits of mentoring undergraduates in the lab on the ASCB COMPASS blog, Jami Conley Calderon recounts the experience of mentoring undergraduates and provides some key steps from their experience in an approach for graduate students to take when mentoring undergraduates: Explain the lab’s research; Encourage questions; Be present; Give students agency over their project; Be understanding; and Respect their time. You can read the full post, with more details on each step, here.   In Volunteered or Voluntold? The Motivations and Perceived Outcomes of Graduate and Postdoctoral Mentors of Undergraduate Researchers, published in CBE-Life Sciences Education, Limeri, Asif and Dolan take a systematic approach to look at the postgraduate perspective of this mentoring experience.   Using exploratory interviews, the authors identified and characterized motivations for 32 postgraduates...

Please tell us what you think about FoR (plus a chance to win a FoR tote bag!)

June 28th will mark the last day for staff support at Future of Research on our seed grant, and so will see the departure of Executive Director Dr. Gary McDowell. This gives the organization an opportunity to look back over the 3 years of the non-profit’s full-time operations to see what has worked, what hasn’t, and plan future directions.   To help with this effort, we would like your help – please complete this survey (all sections optional) to tell us your thoughts. There’s also the chance to be entered into a draw for a hand-stitched FoR motif on a tote bag by our own ED!   Please feel free to be honest – the organization and our ED would all appreciate critiques in moving forward, to learn from mistakes or past successes that we may not be fully aware of....

Co-reviewing good, Ghostwriting bad: The role of early career researchers in peer review at journals

Last year at an ASAPbio meeting on peer review, one discussion centered around the role of early career researchers (ECRs) in peer review, and particularly how frequently ECRs contribute to peer review behind the scenes. This was fueled by a survey in eLife, a journal publishing life sciences research, indicating that 92% of those surveyed had undertaken reviewing activities, but more than half had done so without the assistance of their advisor. Dr. Gary McDowell (FoR Executive Director) and Dr. Rebeccah Lijek (former FoR BoD member and faculty member at Mount Holyoke College) led workshops discussing the reasons for, and questions about, the likely unrecognized involvement of ECRs in the peer review process. Those conversations inspired a year-long project to collect data on how frequently ECRs contribute to peer review when they are not the invited reviewer (“co-review”), and how commonly ECRs co-review without being acknowledged to the journal editorial staff (“ghostwrite”). Results and recommendations have now been published as a preprint here at bioRxiv. You can also read an article about the preprint in Physics Today. 1,952 publications in the peer-reviewed literature were evaluated though an exhaustive search and no previous studies about ECRs ghostwriting peer review reports were found. 498 researchers were then surveyed about their experiences with, and opinions about, co-reviewing and ghostwriting as ECRs. This found: 3/4 of those surveyed have co-reviewed and most find it to be a beneficial (95% agree) and ethical (73% agree) form of training in peer review; co-reviewing is the second most commonly reported form of training in peer review besides receiving reviews on one’s own papers; 1/2 of those surveyed have...

FoR Chicago 2019: Mentoring Future Scientists – Join us locally or remotely to help departments focus on mentoring

If you follow academic discussions on Twitter, you may have caught sight of a discussion recently about grad school experiences prompted by Dr Kathryn Milligan-Myhre at the University of Alaska:   For those of you who had/are now having a difficult time in grad school, what support was/is lacking? If you don’t feel comfortable posting from your handle, PM me, I will post for you. — Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre (@Napaaqtuk) March 24, 2019 What followed was a long thread of experiences and messages received by Dr. Milligan-Myhre detailing a multitude of problems including stories of power-imbalances, and departmental or institutional inaction. Stories such as these are familiar to us over at Future of Research; it’s part of the motivation behind our efforts. Having fostered this dicussion, Dr. Milligan-Myhre then posed the question to departmental staff and faculty:   Faculty/GS dept people: These stories are heartbreaking, but an accurate picture of grad school for many of our students. Next step: What are YOU going to do to make grad school experiences better for students? https://t.co/DPK8u7GqEj — Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre (@Napaaqtuk) March 29, 2019 If you’ve been following our work over the last few months, you may be aware that FoR is organizing the Mentoring Future Scientists meeting (primarily in Chicago, but facilitating remote participation through satellite meetings) to bring together graduate students, postdocs, junior faculty and departmental leaders and representatives, to discuss what departments can do to prioritize attention to mentoring.   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...

Achieving independence in research career transitions

On March 13th 2019, FoR ED Gary McDowell led a workshop, “Training Transitions: Pathways to Independence in Research” at the University of California Irvine School of Biological Sciences.   What does “independence” mean for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers? The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study for The Next Generation Researchers Initiative (of which FoR ED Dr. Gary McDowell and FoR President Dr. Jessica Polka were members) took the definition of independence from a previous 2005 Academies study, Bridges to Independence:   “The definition of ‘independence’ as a researcher in a tenure-track faculty position who has received his or her first R01 research project grant is outdated… …we define an ‘independent investigator’ as one who enjoys independence of thought… …In addition, the committee has affirmed the interconnectedness of scientific research and research training. Mentoring and research training cannot be separated from scientific research for anyone in postdoctoral- or graduate student- positions and should not be considered as separate objectives.””   The barriers that early career researchers (undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty) may face in establishing themselves as independent scholars are a topic of increasing discussion, in an ever more hypercompetitive academic environment. For example, a major issue for postdocs is the tension between being supported from research project grants, fulfilling the aims of someone else’s research project, rather than being in the ideal postdoc position of developing their own research project and goals, and learning how to lead a project, with mentorship from another investigator. This is just one example of the conflict that has arisen between fostering academic scholarship, and providing the labor for...