A small step for postdoc mentoring

Today, President Bush is scheduled to sign the linkurl:America COMPETES Act;http://science.house.gov/legislation/leg_highlights_detail.aspx?NewsID=1938 (the full title is "American Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act"). The new legislation would approximately double NSF funding over the next five years (which linkurl:some say;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/7/1/28/1/ could be a bad idea for scientists). Nestled with that 500-p

Edyta Zielinska
Aug 8, 2007
Today, President Bush is scheduled to sign the linkurl:America COMPETES Act;http://science.house.gov/legislation/leg_highlights_detail.aspx?NewsID=1938 (the full title is "American Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act"). The new legislation would approximately double NSF funding over the next five years (which linkurl:some say;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/7/1/28/1/ could be a bad idea for scientists). Nestled with that 500-page document is a 15-line provision (section 7008) that requires NSF applicants to describe how they will mentor their postdocs. The Act suggests that mentoring activities include things such as career counseling, guidance on teaching skills, and training in research ethics. Each applicant's mentoring plan would be evaluated as part of the broader impact merit review. What does all this really mean for postdocs? Bobby Mixon, a spokesperson for the NSF says that it's too early to really say how the NSF will interpret and implement that provision. But he says, "once [the president] signs it,...
8 (the full title is "American Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act"). The new legislation would approximately double NSF funding over the next five years (which linkurl:some say;http://www.the-scientist.com/2007/7/1/28/1/ could be a bad idea for scientists). Nestled with that 500-page document is a 15-line provision (section 7008) that requires NSF applicants to describe how they will mentor their postdocs. The Act suggests that mentoring activities include things such as career counseling, guidance on teaching skills, and training in research ethics. Each applicant's mentoring plan would be evaluated as part of the broader impact merit review. What does all this really mean for postdocs? Bobby Mixon, a spokesperson for the NSF says that it's too early to really say how the NSF will interpret and implement that provision. But he says, "once [the president] signs it, we will have a flurry of activity." We'll follow up and keep you posted. It could be great news for postdocs funded by NSF grants. But if you're funded by an NIH grant, your PI may provide as little mentoring as he or she likes. NIH guidelines require that 100% of a postdoc's time be billed to research activities. But what about the time a postdoc spends being mentored, The National Postdoctoral Association linkurl:asked?;http://www.nationalpostdoc.org/site/c.eoJMIWOBIrH/b.1388059/k.DBBE/NPA_Home.htm The NIH linkurl:responded;http://www.nationalpostdoc.org/site/c.eoJMIWOBIrH/b.1438743/apps/nl/content2.asp?content_id={F4B49FD3-80CE-4E89-816E-198716174FC0}¬oc=1 that a postdoc can be paid for the time she or he is mentored, as long as those mentoring activities are part of the normal research activities. "A specific event devoted entirely to mentoring," would not be allowed. So, you may have to deduct the time you spent going to that lecture on careers in science, but it's probably okay to talk to your labmates about it afterward. Do you think the government is doing enough to promote mentoring for postdocs?

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?