Recently, a colleague posed a seemingly simple question that took my thoughts down an unexpected path. Selected for a prestigious award, she had been asked to write something on mentoring and wanted to go beyond the personal reminiscences common to such pieces. Aware of my interest in issues related to the advancement of women in science, she wondered if I knew of any quantitative data that demonstrated the effects of mentoring on career development. The key word: quantitative.

There is significant anecdotal testimony that attests to the importance of mentoring. Most successful scientists openly acknowledge that navigating the complex terrain of academic science is much riskier without the guidance of an experienced mentor. Mentoring guides published by the National Academy of Sciences, the Association for Women in Science, and other professional societies rest on the unquestioned premise that mentoring is essential. How would you go about quantitating the value...

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