Graduate students are more likely to persist in their academic decisions if engaged in positive mentoring experiences. Graduate students also cite positive mentoring experiences as the most important factor in completing a Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, or Medicine (STEMM) degree. In the United States, though, these benefits are often undermined by a research ecosystem that ties mentorship and training of graduate students by Principal Investigators (PIs) to funding in the form of research assistantships. Such arrangements often lead to unreasonable work expectations, toxic work environments, and poor mentor-mentee relationships.
To improve research productivity, empower predoctoral researchers to achieve their career goals, and increase the intellectual freedom that young scientists need to pursue productively disruptive scholarship, we recommend that federal science funding agencies:
1. Establish traineeship grant programs at all federal science funding agencies.
2. Require every PI receiving a federal research grant to implement an Individual Development Plan (IDP) for each student funded by that grant.
3. Require every university receiving federal training grants to create a plan for how it will provide mentorship training to faculty, and to actively consider student mentorship as part of faculty promotion, reappointment, and tenure processes.
4. Direct and fund federal science agencies to build professional development networks and create other training opportunities to help more PIs learn best practices for mentorship.
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