The topic for the next meeting of the astronomy twitter journal club (Thursday, 20:10 GMT) is the importance (or otherwise) of mentoring for helping young scientists establish themselves. It was suggested by Marcel Haas, and I’ll pass you over to him to explain further…
Here is another ‘paper suggestion’, or rather a suggestion for a discussion topic: Mentoring systems for young scientists (grad students, postdocs). As a young scientist you are in a crucial point in your career. In a few years you can be either ‘made’ (resulting in a permanent position in astronomy or elsewhere if you like) or ‘broken’ (leaving you outside of astronomy while you wanted to stay, with the feeling your science years were lost time). In practice most scientist are left on their own to pave their career path, while help in such issues could be of major advantage for the person him-/herself and for the institution that employ them.
A couple of questions I would have in mind for discussion are:
- Should young scientists be mentored? In the remainder I will assume that the answer to this is yes. If you think not, I would be interested to know why!
- What is the kind of topics mentoring should encompass? You could think of career development, skills in paper writing or oral presentations, help in visa situation or day care systems
- Should the ‘mentor’ just be the supervisor, or would it be useful to have a second senior scientist mentor you (and if so: is it advisable to have that mentor be in the same sub-field of astronomy)?
– Should mentoring be optional or obligatory for mentors and ‘mentees’?
- What would you yourself expect from a mentor in the early stages of a career?
- Do current and prospective supervisors need more training to be a mentor than is the case now?
- How can/should an eventual mentoring program be monitored to ensure success?
My reason for this is threefold. First, I am interested in how other young scientists feel about this. Secondly, I am involved in the organization of a mentoring program at my institute and we are investigating what such a program should be, how it can be implemented and how we monitor this. Lastly, I am participating in a National Academies panel on ‘The State of the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers’, for which input from a large group of people from the community would be more than welcome!