Friday, January 9, 2009

Mandated Post-doc Mentoring

For anyone who is not writing an NSF grant for this round, you might be surprised to note that, as of January 5th, there are new rules regarding post-docs. The text reads as follows:

One of the most significant changes to the PAPPG is implementation of the mentoring provisions of the America COMPETES Act. Each proposal that requests funding to support postdoctoral researchers must include, as a separate section within the 15-page project description, a description of the mentoring activities that will be provided for such individuals. Proposals that do not include a separate section on mentoring activities within the Project Description will be returned without review.

I am all for the proper mentoring of post-docs, but this seems to me like just another thing to put words around in a grant. It's not going to change how I run the lab or how I plan to metor my post-docs. Is this just in here for old-timers who ignore post-docs?

It's actually a challenging little piece to write because my first version came across as though I was heaping a ton of responsibility for the lab onto the post-docs and sitting in my office with my feet up. Now I'm strugling with making it sound like a mentoring relationship without sounding like I'm going to be stalking my post-docs and smothering them. Ugh.

7 comments:

  1. Can you ask another PI if you can look at their training/mentoring plans to give you some guidance?

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  2. Well, this initiative is BRAND new. They put it into effect on Jan 5th, so unless someone else is submitting for this round and has money in their budget for a post-doc, they won't have the section written already. I haven't taken the time to poll my colleagues to see who else meets these criteria, but I'm sure I can come up with something that will work.
    On the flip side, it will be the first time reviewers see these sections, so it will probably not be much of a factor in the grant decision in this round. As long as it is in there, it should be alright.

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  3. Haha, I've got to think of my lab when I hear about requirements like this. One of the reasons my NIH fellowship proposal got rejected was because I didn't provide enough details about how my PI was going to actively 'mentor' me. I had put some bullshit in about weekly meetings, whatever, but that wasn't good enough for them. The funny thing is that I get NO mentoring from my PI! Hahahaha. So it's total bullshit.

    I'm just going to have to get even wordier and more detailed next time around: "On Tuesdays, he's going to hold my hand while we work on my manuscript together. I'm going to tell him about my mental insecurities about being a postdoc in his lab, and he is going to provide sage, fatherly advice about how I can make the most of my career." Riiiiight.

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  4. Well, that's what I'm saying. People are going to mentor or not, no matter what is written into the grant. I decided to at least put a tangible goal in there about providing the funds to go to the 2010 National Postdoctoral Associations meeting, but what does that really do? Should I include a picture of us working side-by-side and smiling? Figure 1. PLS loves working with his postdocs and they love him too.

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  5. Try speaking with the National Postdoc Association (on the assumption you're in the US). They (we! he he heee) fought to get this implemented

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  6. Don't get me wrong, I am all for mentoring all lab trainees, particularly postdocs, but I'm just not sure being forced to write something like that is going to change how people approach what they do. At the same time, it does provide some kind of precident for expectations.

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  7. I guess one problem is the newness of it. With no real precident, and no guidelines how do you know what to say?

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