Cultivating Inclusive Research Teams

Optional Preliminary Readings

San C McConnell, Erica L Westerman, Joseph F Pierre, Erin J Heckler, Nancy B Schwartz (2018), “Research: United States National Postdoc Survey results and the interaction of geender, career choice and mentor impact”, eLife 7:e40189.

Synopsis: This eLife paper reports data collected through a national survey of postdoctoral scholars (7,603 postdoctoral respondents from 351 US institutions), conducted to collect demographic data, factors impacting their satisfaction with the mentoring received, and key factors influencing their career decisions. Among the survey respondents, 53% were female and 47% male, 54.5% were 30-34 years old, 51% were non-US citizens, and 71% had male mentors. Male respondents were more likely than female respondents to be married/partnered and have children. Male respondents were also likely to be paid more than female respondents, on average, and the salary received varied from a field/state to another – a detailed map of the cost-of-living-adjusted postdoctoral income is provided in Figure 2. Interestingly and beside access to specific professional development opportunities (e.g., training in pedagogy or mentoring), two factors were found to significantly impact postdoctoral scholars’ career decisions and satisfaction with the mentoring received: the perceived mentor support of their career plan and feelings of career preparedness.

Beronda L. Montgomery, Fátima Sancheznieto, and Maria Lund Dahlberg, (2022), “Academic Mentorship Needs a More Scientific Approach,” Issues in Science & Technology, Vol. 38, No. 4, pp. 84-87.

Synopsis: the authors of this piece highlight the central role mentorship plays in the research enterprise, given how it impacts academic innovation and the personal development and career of early-career researchers. They call for individual researchers and institutions to intentionally devote attention to mentorship, by: (1) using an evidence-based approach to redefine mentorship as a collaborative process in which both the mentee and the mentor give to and take from each other, (2) including intentional reflection and planning of career development support of junior researchers in grant proposals, (3) supporting mentors willing to continuously improve their mentoring practices and mentees to seek to build a network of mentors, (4) recognizing mentors who have a positive impact on their mentee’s personal and professional development through standalone awards that are distinct from other service or teaching awards. The authors end their piece with these words: “Mentorship is central to the research ecosystem, and it must be treated as such. Mentorship takes skill, time, effort, resources, and dedicated individuals who should be adequately trained, recognized, and valued. Intentions, however good, will not make up for a lack of intentionality: our future scientists and science are at stake.”

Introduction Video

  • Wood CV, Jones RF, Remich RG, Caliendo AE, Langford NC, Keller JL, et al. (2020) “The National Longitudinal Study of Young Life Scientists: Career differentiation among a diverse group of biomedical PhD students.”, PLoS ONE 15(6): e0234259. 
  • Ben J. Vincent, Clarissa Scholes, Max V. Staller, Zeba Wunderlich, Javier Estrada, Jeehae Park, Meghan D.J. Bragdon, Francheska Lopez Rivera, Kelly M. Biette, Angela H. DePace, (2015) “Yearly Planning Meetings: Individualized Development Plans Aren’t Just More Paperwork”, Molecular Cell, 58(5), pp.718-721,
  • Masters KS, Kreeger PK (2017) Ten simple rules for developing a mentor–mentee expectations document. PLoS Comput Biol 13(9): e1005709.

Discussion Questions

  • How does your definition of a successful postdoc position align with your postdoc mentees’? How do you know?
  • What tools do you use to set and (re)align expectations with postdocs’ vision of success/career prospects? Why do you find them helpful?
  • How does the department or the institution support postdocs and their mentors accordingly?
  • How do you orient or onboard new postdocs to your team right after they join?
  • How do you and your postdocs characterize productivity, healthy work/life integration and boundaries?
  • How do you evaluate the effectiveness of your mentoring practices? What data/information do you use to decide whether you need to change something in your mentoring approach?
  • Is there a strategy that you heard today, either during pre-session or from your colleagues, that you think our program or department should implement?
  • How can we iterate on this work over time?