This section includes relevant background text, definitions and examples, policy statements, video, and expert commentary. It should be read by those looking for a thorough understanding of mentoring.

»Foundation Text«

Table of Contents
I. Mentoring and its importance in the education and training of science professionals
II. Description of mentoring: The complexity of the role and the many forms it takes
III. Roles, activities, and functions
IV. Mentoring on ethics and responsible conduct of research
V. The ethics of mentoring
VI. The responsibility to mentor minorities and women
VII. Responsibilities of trainees
     1. Identify career plans
     2. Locate prospective mentors
     3. Distinguish between supervisors and mentors
     4. Be clear about needs and expectations
     5. Keep learning about effective mentoring
VIII. Responsibilities of mentors
     1. Be available
     2. Allow for differences in personalities
     3. Let trainees make their own decisions
     4. Teach by words and example
     5. Keep learning about effective mentoring
IX. Dealing with problems in the mentor-trainee relationship
X. Award/rewards

NOTE:This text is adapted, with permission, from a chapter in Responsible Conduct of Research: An Introductory Guide, prepared for the Office of Research Integrity at the University of California, San Diego, by Michael Kalichman (August, 2001).

I. Mentoring and its importance in the education and training of science professionals

This module on mentoring in Columbia University's Responsible Conduct of Research e-seminar series is about the future of science as represented by our undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and junior faculty. Mentoring is one of the primary means for one generation of scientists to impart their knowledge to succeeding generations. More than textbooks and formal classes, the relatively informal, though complex and multidimensional, relationships between mentors and their trainees prepare the next generation of science professionals.

In her 1977 speech at the Nobel Banquet, prizewinner Rosalyn Yalow addressed the students of Stockholm, identifying them as "the carriers of our hopes for the survival of the world and our dreams for its future." Yalow spoke of an ever-widening circle of learning. She said, "If we are to have faith that mankind will survive and thrive on the face of the earth, we must believe that each succeeding generation will be wiser than its progenitors. We transmit to you, the next generation, the total sum of our knowledge. Yours is the responsibility to use it, to add to it, and transmit it to your children."1

As suggested by Yalow, both the mentor and the trainee have responsibilities for the success of the process. These will be explored here as aspects of the responsible conduct of research, and in addition we will discuss ethical issues in the conduct of mentoring, and mentoring itself as a means to transmit ethical standards of professional conduct.

Mentoring has received increasing attention in the past decade, and subsequently a body of literature has emerged describing the mentoring process and discussing its potential benefits and problems. Issues regarding fair access to mentors and the impact of a lack of mentoring on women and minorities are especially important. At some institutions, guidelines and formal programs have been put in place to deal with these concerns. This module explores these and other facets of mentoring, with the goal of increasing understanding of and attention to this important matter.

II. Description of mentoring: The complexity of the role and the many forms it takes

A mentor is someone who has experience with the challenges that trainees face, the ability to communicate that experience, and the willingness to do so. A mentor takes a special interest in helping another person develop into a successful professional. In Greek mythology, Mentor was a trusted friend of Odysseus and helped to advise Telemachus, the son of Odysseus.

The role of a mentor is different from that of a supervisor or adviser, although these formal academic roles can lead to a mentoring relationship. The essence of mentoring has been described in a report by the National Academy of Sciences as being an adviser, teacher, role model, and friend2. We would add one more component to that mix: advocate.

A mentor might be a faculty adviser, a laboratory director, a fellow student, another faculty member, a wise friend, or simply another person with experience. For our purposes, a trainee or protégé in the research setting includes anyone in a junior or apprentice position, such as an undergraduate or graduate student, a postdoctoral fellow, or a junior faculty member.

The significance of the mentor-trainee relationship is examined in a book about Nobel laureates by Harriett Zuckerman, Scientific Elite, in a chapter entitled "Masters and Apprentices in Science."3 The laureates reported to Zuckerman "that for them the principal benefit of apprenticeship was a wider orientation that included standards of work and modes of thought." Zuckerman found that "... apprenticeship was a time of what social scientists call socialization. Socialization includes more than is ordinarily understood by education or by training: it involves acquiring the norms and standards, the values and attitudes, as well as the knowledge, skills, and behavior patterns associated with particular statuses and roles. It is, in short, the process through which people are inducted into a culture or subculture."

Zuckerman reasoned that the process of socialization experienced by the laureates occurred in mutually reinforcing ways: "...the masters' own performance provided a model to be emulated; the masters evoked excellence from the apprentices working with them, and they were severe critics of scientific work ... the masters generally served as role models, teaching less by precept than by example. By themselves adhering to demanding standards of work, they sustained the moral authority to pass severe judgments on work that failed to meet comparable standards."4

Like the Nobel laureates described by Zuckerman, and like Telemachus in mythology, a trainee will benefit most from close ties over an extended period of time with a mentor who is personally committed to the relationship. Some commentators on this subject emphasize the personal nature of the mentor-trainee relationship. Others caution that boundaries are important. In either case, no two mentors will behave in exactly the same way - each brings to the task his own strengths and preferences. But every good mentor will act from a sense of responsibility and a commitment to the future of the trainee.

III. Roles, activities, and functions

William Silen, M.D., Dean for Faculty Development and Diversity and the Johnson & Johnson Distinguished Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, describes a rare species: "the truly complete mentor." This is "a single individual who is able to serve as an advisor/guide, developer of talent/coach, opener of doors/advocate, role model, interpreter of organizational or professional rules, protector, rule setter/boss - and carries on all of these functions on a long term basis."5

A rare species indeed. Few of us can claim the time or the skill to perform all of these roles for one other person; and it seems virtually impossible in the context of today's large laboratories, filled to the brim with graduate students and postdocs.

But to appreciate potential contributions of mentors it is helpful to consider the wide range of needs to be met. First and foremost, mentors in the sciences should help trainees develop as capable researchers. A mentor can contribute to the technical development of the trainee in many aspects of research, including methods, directions, creative thinking, completing academic or professional requirements, and scientific communication.

The most important mentor I had...

A second essential need for trainees is career development and preparation for the job market. This includes an understanding of the current job market, opportunities to make contacts with leaders in the trainee's field of research, active introduction into the network of people working in his or her discipline, and an awareness of the range of career options. A mentor may also advise a new scientist on career moves in terms of applying for grants, what grants to apply for, and how to submit a strong grant proposal.

Another focus of mentoring is the socialization of trainees. Such socialization should include guiding ethical development as well as fostering an understanding of the political, economic, and social elements of interacting within the academic community and instilling a sense of collegiality. This training includes promotion of skills for teaching, communication, working in teams, leadership, management of people, interacting with others, listening, expressing ideas, administration and planning, and budget management.

A particularly important mentoring role is that of advocate. Silen used the term "protector," but, however one phrases it, there are times when the mentor has to step forward and defend or advocate for the trainee. A specific academic example might be the situation in which a mentor's doctoral student is in the midst of his or her comprehensive examinations and has been instructed to rewrite an essay many times for a particular question. A member of the review panel for the exam has a reputation for demanding perfection from students and keeps sending the essay back. After the mentor reviews it thoroughly and perhaps discusses it with others, it is clear that the student's answer is well worth a pass or better. In that situation, it would not be inappropriate for the mentor to step in to move the process along. Other advocacy initiatives could stem from complaints from one's trainee about harassment or unequal treatment by others.

Clearly, the above list is long, but all of these elements, and more, are components that are necessary in order to survive and succeed in academia. A complete list of such elements should be limited only by the needs of the individual trainee. Any situation in which one person's knowledge or skill is greater than another's is a potential starting point for a mentoring relationship.

Although every trainee may need a "truly complete mentor," this may actually be a composite of more than one individual. Not all established scientists can bring the requisite time, knowledge, and interest to the full range of issues that are likely to be important to each trainee. Each mentor and each trainee have responsibilities that, if fulfilled, will optimize the effectiveness of the relationship for both.

IV. Mentoring on ethics and responsible conduct of research

One crucial role for a mentor is to assist the trainee in understanding and adhering to the standards of conduct within his or her profession. Within a small research group, this can often happen through example, impromptu counsel, and the free-flowing exchange of thoughts and ideas. But today many research groups are too large or competitive for this to occur. Whether or not this change in scale has impeded the extent to which new scientists become aware of prevailing standards of conduct, it appears that issues of responsible conduct are not discussed frequently enough.

For better or worse, whether by personal habit or increased demands, the current default method of teaching the traditions and standards of science is by unwitting and serendipitous example. Unfortunately, without discussion of ethical principles and the purposeful assurance that everyone is included, this approach to training is seriously flawed. The principles of decision-making are not explicit and are therefore open to interpretation (and misinterpretation), and many important roles of scientists (e.g., peer review or negotiating collaborations) are not observed by the trainee. The available evidence strongly argues against relying on this approach to training.

The importance of mentoring for training in the responsible conduct of research has been recognized in several national reports on the integrity of research. For example, a report from the Institute of Medicine (1989) noted the importance of mentors and specifically recommended that departments and research units should monitor the supervision and training of young scientists to insure that it is adequate. In 1992, a Panel on Scientific Responsibility and the Conduct of Research concluded that "Research mentors ... are responsible for defining, explaining, exemplifying, and requiring adherence to the value systems of their institutions." Similarly, a more recent report emphasized the importance of continued mentoring for postdoctoral researchers (Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, 2000).

Authorship: An Example When Mentoring is Crucial

Responsible conduct is more than the desire to do the right thing or the reading of relevant regulations and publications. It is also important that trainees recognize the wide range of accepted practices, and that some of these practices may be preferable to others. Furthermore, trainees need to understand that acting responsibly depends on an appreciation that standards can vary between and within disciplines, can change over time, and in some cases are not yet clearly defined. For trainees to understand the varied and evolving nature of these standards, it is necessary that experienced scientists clearly convey their understanding of accepted practices in the conduct of research.

V. The ethics of mentoring

The mentor-trainee relationship can be abused in many ways as a result of the inherent imbalance of power. Mentors have more knowledge, experience, and status, and in most cases are in a position of authority over the trainee. Even a mentor who is not very senior has a great deal of power relative to a trainee. The trainee has much to gain from the mentor's support and advocacy, and fear of jeopardizing that support makes the relationship especially imbalanced. Perhaps the greatest power disparity exists for a trainee from a foreign country.

A mentor can use this power to exploit the trainee - for example, in refusing to give proper credit for the trainee's contributions or in seeking to obtain personal or even sexual favors. A common complaint of trainees is that they are required to spend so much time working on the mentor's research that there is little time left for their own.

Perhaps the greatest complexity occurs in the mentoring of graduate students. Where does the responsibility of the supervisor end and that of the trainee begin? What about the responsibilities of the advisory committee and the entire graduate program faculty for the success of graduate research training? Is there a difference between a research supervisor and a research mentor? If there is a difference, are the duties associated with mentoring optional? How much does a faculty member "owe" to the duty of research supervision, as opposed to what they owe themselves and their other academic duties? Whose responsibility is it to protect students from poor advisers?

Boundaries between a faculty member's financial and career interests and their responsibilities to their advisees create additional problems. Jonathan Cole posed an important question in this context: In the role of research adviser in determining a research topic, if there is a choice between a topic that may lead to a patent and one that is more "intellectually interesting and challenging," is it appropriate for the adviser to push the student toward the topic with patent possibilities because of the potential financial rewards? Cole suggests that such a constraint on the student's topic would be inappropriate9.

In the case of industry-funded research, it may be in the sponsor's interest to delay publication of results for as long as two years. A faculty member must consider the consequences for any graduate student or trainee involved in such research. If there are constraints on publication, the trainee should be made aware of them before choosing to participate in the research, and both the mentor and the trainee must consider the impact of such delays on the trainee's career prospects.

A mentor may, rather than exercise his or her power "over" a trainee, withhold power, disengaging and failing to serve as champion, sponsor, or protector. If a mentor is threatened by the success of a trainee, he may undermine the confidence of the trainee. Other problems can arise when a trainee is ignored or neglected, communication is inadequate, there is a lack of feedback, or the mentor gives extremely harsh criticism.

"Toxic mentoring" is a label that has been used to describe these problematic relationships. Dr. William Silen published an article in Mentations, a Harvard Medical School publication, entitled "Tormentor of the Year, A Cautionary Tale."10 Silen suggests that, "[a]t the same time we proffer kudos upon outstanding mentors, it behooves us to call attention to those who engage in actively negative mentoring, which for want of a better term we shall refer to as 'tormenting.' Perhaps an award should be given to 'Tormentor of the Year.'"

Whether we call them toxic mentors or tormentors, those who take advantage of or ignore trainees must be reminded that they have a special obligation to foster the intellectual development and independence of the next generation of scientists. The most effective mentor insures that her trainee gets the maximum appropriate credit for any joint publications; encourages the trainee to attend national or international conferences, workshops, and symposia and to present research at such events; promotes the trainee's work among colleagues; and helps the trainee create important professional networks.

The guiding principle should be the interest of the trainee. Departments and schools have a role in setting out reasonable expectations for the mentor and the trainee, as well as in suggesting strategies to make the relationship as productive and mutually satisfying as possible. Virtually all studies of and guidelines for research advising and mentoring stress the importance of structuring the research process carefully - establishing deadlines for various milestones in the process, scheduling regular meetings with the adviser and the trainee, and dealing with issues of authorship and intellectual property.

VI. The responsibility to mentor minorities and women

Mentoring is Important for Everyone

Those who seek to broaden the representation of minorities and women in the research professions increasingly look to mentoring to help achieve that goal. Traditionally, white trainees are more likely than minority trainees to have a mentor, and men are more likely than women to have a mentor. Correcting this imbalance is a logical step, given the significance that mentoring has in career development, and the importance of maximizing the potential of all members of the scientific community.

The Outer Circle: Women in the Scientific Community (edited by Harriet Zuckerman, Jonathan R. Cole, and John T. Bruer [W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1991]) explores the reasons that women, in general, may not have been as productive in scientific careers as men. Research tracking the accomplishments and tenure outcomes of assistant professors at two universities is described by Mary Frank Fox: "To the extent that women are excluded from collegial channels and collaborative opportunities, their productivity can suffer."11 In one study, it was found that only 25% of the women, compared with 52% of the men, had co-authored papers with senior professors. Furthermore, a significantly larger percentage of those who had collaborated were promoted, compared with those who had not collaborated. In a second study, it was found that collegial interactions - specifically, collaboration in co-authoring and mentoring relationships - related to both productivity and promotion rates.

Discussing another study of career processes in science, Fox concludes, "... collaboration with a mentor affects pre-doctoral productivity and job placement, which, in turn, influence later productivity. But the mentor also influences productivity independent of these indirect effects. For those who collaborate with a mentor, the mentor continues to affect the student's productivity." Mentoring socializes a trainee into the culture of science and initiates a young scientist into the scientific community. Historically, women and minorities have been excluded from this process, which has obviously limited their possibilities "to do research, to publish, to be cited - to show the crucial marks of productivity in science."

Many programs have been developed to correct the imbalance in mentoring opportunities. For example, Harvard Medical School created the Office for Diversity and Community Partnership, to promote increased recruitment and the retention and promotion of underrepresented minority faculty, and to oversee all diversity activities involving Harvard Medical School faculty, trainees, students, and staff. The inaugural issue of Mentations, the newsletter of the office, contains an announcement of the first annual Harvard Medical School Award for Excellence in Mentoring12. In addition to recognizing the importance of mentoring through an award, this office also conducts programs on mentoring and handles requests for assistance and information about mentoring.

The Association for Women in Science13 began a mentoring project in 1990, with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of women who attain bachelor's degrees and advanced degrees in science and engineering and achieve successful careers as science and engineering professionals. It was designed to integrate female students into the scientific community by helping them identify and overcome the obstacles that prevent them from continuing in science. In addition, MentorNet14 - a mentoring network for women in engineering and science, states as its mission "to further women's progress in scientific and technical fields through the use of a dynamic, technology-supported mentoring program; and to advance women and society, and enhance engineering and related sciences, by promoting a diversified, expanded and talented workforce." MentorNet seeks to achieve this by providing students with mentoring to enhance their presence in fields where they remain underrepresented, and to facilitate their entry into scientific and technical careers.

VII. Responsibilities of trainees

Most young or inspiring scientists have at least a modest conceptualization of their ultimate career aspirations and have internalized the usual worries that accompany those dreams. Few, however, will be fortunate enough to have one or more ideal mentors step in to help. The obvious solution is to seek out more senior scientists, and sometimes peers, who have the experience that is lacking. Finding someone who will be an effective mentor is primarily a responsibility of the trainee.

1. Identify career plans In seeking a mentor, the first step for a trainee is identifying particular needs. What are his or her career plans? Trainees should assess their skills, talents, and interests, and seek advice from someone who is knowledgeable about suitable career options. Someone who can help with this initial look at career plans may be, or may become, a mentor, but this is not essential. [The IDP referred to earlier can help in this regard:]

2. Locate prospective mentors

How You Find a Mentor

Having identified general career interests, a trainee should seek as prospective mentors people who have succeeded in making the transition from where the trainee is now to where the trainee hopes to be. This means identifying people who know and have overcome the challenges to success. For example, for some women it would be invaluable to seek out women who have met the challenges that they are likely to face.

Characteristics to look for in potential mentors include experience in areas relevant to the trainee's personal and career development, an interest in the trainee and his or her career, a willingness to make the time to meet with the trainee, and an ability to provide the trainee with useful advice, not a rigid set of demands. In addition, an ideal mentoring relationship depends on the compatibility of the personalities of the mentor and the trainee. Assessing such qualities and the interpersonal skills of the prospective mentor is much more difficult than gauging someone's success as a researcher. However, because research is defined by personal as well as professional relationships, these qualities are as important as any other criteria in identifying a supervisor, thesis adviser, or mentor.

Finding a compatible mentor, adviser, or supervisor is more likely to be successful when trainees first do their homework and ask questions of senior students. What do previous trainees or employees report of their experience working with the prospective mentor? What is the quality of the trainee's interactions with the prospective mentor? How do other faculty and staff feel about the prospective mentor? What is the track record of the prospective mentor, i.e., rate of degree completion and time to degree?

3. Distinguish between supervisors and mentors

Not everyone embodies the characteristics needed in a good mentor. While the terms "mentor," "thesis adviser," and "research supervisor" are frequently used interchangeably, it is important to note that thesis advisers and research supervisors are not necessarily mentors. For example, thesis advisers are responsible for insuring that students fulfill departmental and institutional requirements for the graduate degree and for providing advice about research directions, methods, and publication. Mentors, on the other hand, provide information beyond scientific concepts and laboratory techniques - information that is essential for professional success, such as how to obtain funding, manage a research lab or group, use time effectively, and understand departmental politics and institutional committees.

Although supervisors ideally are mentors, that is not always the case. In some cases, a thesis adviser or head of a research group will provide much of the mentoring that trainees need. If not, then initiating a discussion with a supervisor about authorship criteria, the funding process, or mentoring itself might stimulate the supervisor to become a better mentor. However, whether or not a supervisor is an effective mentor, it is unlikely that one person alone can provide all that is needed.

4. Be clear about needs and expectations

A mentoring relationship should not be a passive one for either the mentor or the trainee. From the trainee's perspective, it is necessary to take an active role in identifying and communicating his or her needs and expectations in the mentoring relationship. At the same time, the mentor's advice should not be accepted without question. Although a mentor can provide a unique and invaluable perspective, the trainee has the responsibility to evaluate the mentor's advice in light of his or her own values, goals, and experience.

5. Keep learning about effective mentoring

It is important for trainees to continue learning about the mentoring process to optimize their own experience and also to prepare them to be effective mentors. A good starting point would be the resources and mentoring guides listed at the end of this module. However, it should be more than this, and the suggestion might be made to one's program or department head to add mentoring as a topic for seminars or colloquia.

VIII. Responsibilities of mentors

Just as scientific trainees have a responsibility to seek mentors, scientists have a complementary responsibility to become mentors. Taking an active role in helping to train the next generation of scientists should not be optional - it should be part of the definition of a scientist. For this reason, the enterprise of science depends on effective communication not just about the science but about the practice of science, standards of conduct, and ethical and social responsibility. This obligation extends to all members of the community, not just senior researchers. For example, it is likely that a newly arrived undergraduate student could benefit from the mentoring of a graduate student, technician, or even a more senior undergraduate.

1. Be available

At the core of mentoring responsibilities is the simple admonition to make oneself available. Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is simply showing up, and mentoring is no different. However, some researchers make the mistake of thinking that somehow mentoring will take over their professional lives and leave no time for their research responsibilities. It doesn't have to be this way, nor should it. In the span of a few minutes, a mentor can give her trainees a feeling of empathy by being attentive to a few key elements, such as careful listening and keeping in touch.

Careful listening is the art of hearing exactly what someone is trying to tell you without first evaluating. Try to focus on the nuances of word emphasis and body language. Through careful response and a few well-placed questions, the way is open for clear communication and a feeling of support and encouragement.

The best advice I can give...

Keeping in touch refers to regularly communicating with your trainees. Try to give at least a few minutes to your trainees every other day or so. These short exchanges can help one stay aware of what is going on and anticipate problems before they grow.

Another way to insure that trainees feel acknowledged is through multiple mentoring. Mentors differ, and not everyone will fully reciprocate a trainee's commitment. This can often be managed through multiple mentoring systems, which can allow, through a division of labor, for differences in style, skills, and availability.

2. Allow for differences in personalities

Successful mentoring, as with any close personal relationship, depends on the personalities of the parties involved. Some trainees learn readily with a minimum of nurturing or guidance, or at least prefer to believe that they require a minimum of help. In such cases, frequent and probing discussion initiated by a mentor may be perceived as invasive and micromanagerial. Other trainees may require the reassurance of being closely monitored and receiving frequent feedback, both positive and negative. Conversely, some mentors will be uncomfortable with offering advice or initiating discussions unless first asked by a trainee, and other mentors will readily volunteer information and advice without any clear indication that help would be welcomed.

The most effective mentoring is likely to occur when the personalities of the mentor and the trainee are a good match. In an effort to act as a mentor, a research supervisor or thesis adviser should attempt to fit his or her style of interaction to the needs and personality of a trainee. Similarly, in an effort to gain the most from a mentoring relationship, the trainee should make allowances for differences between his or her personality and the mentor's.

3. Let trainees make their own decisions

The role of the mentor is to provide advice, help, and encouragement. However, the trainee should not be bound to follow suggestions made by the mentor. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the trainee to act based on his or her own values, goals, and experience.

4. Teach by words and example

Although not all role models are automatically good mentors, the demonstration of good skills and behavior is a necessary element of mentoring. If a mentor argues for rigorous authorship criteria but fails to follow his or her own advice, then lessons learned by the trainee may include that the mentor is an unreliable source of information, that the standards of conduct in research are poorly defined, and that the mentor is, unfortunately, a hypocrite. For a mentor, the lesson is that actions speak louder than words. However, it is still important that mentors make explicit the often implicit rationale for their behavior, because the policy and philosophy that underlie even the most exemplary behavior may be esoteric to the uninformed observer. This is especially true for observers who have a different cultural background.

5. Keep learning about effective mentoring

Responsible mentors should strive to continue learning about effective mentoring, through experience and through the available resources on mentoring. It is also suggested that a discussion about and comparison of mentoring techniques be added to faculty meeting agendas or other faculty events such as retreats.

IX. Dealing with problems in the mentor-trainee relationship

Advance planning in the form of existing procedures or guidelines for addressing problems is the ideal. When asked what would improve their situations, many graduate students and postdocs respond with a request for written guidelines - they want to know what to expect and how to deal with problems.15 16 Indeed, many academic institutions, graduate schools, and individual departments have written strategies for dealing with problems, concerns, and conflicts. These might range from "Speak first to your immediate supervisor or the faculty member involved" to "The department graduate adviser is the person with whom you should consult."

Communication between the mentor and the trainee should be considered first; if it is successful, it may prevent a problem from growing into a more serious grievance. If the trainee needs further assistance, he or she should first ascertain whether there are appropriate school procedures. Take into account all possibilities. Each situation and individual is unique - in one case it may be wise to deal with the problem within the department; in another, the best course may be to seek assistance elsewhere in the institution. The trainee will find someone to talk to by making use of the many resources of the university. One important resource to be aware of in dealing with mentoring problems is the ombudsperson's office at the university.

X. Award/rewards

The benefits of mentoring to the trainee, the mentor, and the organization as a whole are demonstrable17. For example, trainees gain an understanding of the organizational culture, access networks of communication that carry significant professional information, and receive assistance in defining and achieving career goals.

The benefits to mentors are just as great. They may gain satisfaction from the sharing of their knowledge and experience, and from having a trainee succeed and eventually become a colleague. Mentoring keeps one on top of his or her field, helps to develop a professional network, and extends the scientist's contributions. Another benefit is the increased stimulation from bright and creative protégés. Mentors also derive enhanced status and self-esteem, and benefit from joint projects leading to shared grants and authorship as well as to increased revenues. The best mentors are also likely to be able to recruit students of high caliber. The value to the overall stability of the organization results from the development of future leadership, and improved performance within a work group.

This leads one to assume that mentoring activities would be assigned a high priority. In fact, mentoring is rarely rewarded. While a few universities (e.g., Harvard, mentioned above) give awards for excellence in mentoring, mentoring achievements will not appear on one's CV, nor be considered in tenure decisions.

In 1996, President Clinton established the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. This award honors individuals and institutions that have outstanding records in mentoring students in underrepresented groups on their path to significant achievement in science, math, and engineering.

Institutions that set out to support and reward mentoring activities need to obtain increased support for enhancing mentoring efforts at the highest levels. One approach is to begin by holding school- and department-level discussions on how to enhance mentoring activities. Some ideas for programs include: implementing a formal approach and matching mentors and trainees; developing group mentoring approaches; continuing with informal mentoring but heightening awareness of the benefits of mentoring and instituting more recognition or rewards; assisting senior professionals in developing their mentoring skills; implementing additional incentives for mentoring; and including documentation of mentoring in the annual evaluation process.The effort will be returned many times over in the increased satisfaction and productivity of all involved.

The essential component of mentoring is a very personal interaction...

Continue to the next section: → Resources

Reference Notes:

  1. From Les Prix Nobel. Rosalyn Yalow - Banquet Speech at the Nobel Banquet, December 10, 1977. The Official Web Site of the Nobel Foundation. © 2003 The Nobel Foundation. (accessed on 7/10/2003).
  2. National Academy of Science (NAS), 1997. Advisor, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
  3. Zuckerman, H, 1977. Scientific Elite: Nobel Laureates in the United States. New York, NY: Free Press.
  4. Ibid., p. 126.
  5. Silen, "In Search of the Complete Mentor," in Mentations, Volume 5-Fall 1998, at
  6. Csikszentmihalyi M, Damon W, and Gardner H, 2003. The GoodWorkš Project. Cambridge, MA: Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College.
  7. Rimer S, 2003. Finding That Todays Students Are Bright, Eager and Willing to Cheat. The New York Times, Wednesday, July 2: B8.
  8. Rimer S, 2003. Finding That Todays Students Are Bright, Eager and Willing to Cheat. The New York Times, Wednesday, July 2: B8.
  9. Cole, Jonathan R. The Research University in a Time of Discontent.
  10. Silen, "Tor-mentor of the Year: A Cautionary Tale," in Mentations,Volume 2-Fall 1996, at
  11. Fox, Mary Frank. "Gender, Environmental Milieu, and Productivity in Science,' in The Outer Circle, pp. 188-204.
  15. "At Cross Purposes: What the experiences of doctoral students reveal about doctoral education." By Chris M. Golde and Timothy M. Dore. January, 2001. A report prepared for The Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia, PA.
  17. Anderson, M.S., Oju, E.C., and Falkner, T.M.R., 2001. Help from Faculty: Findings from the Acadia Institute Graduate Education Study. Science and Engineering Ethics, Vol. 7, No. 4: 487-504.