Mentoring at UNMC

A high quality postdoctoral training experience depends upon a realistic and productive relationship between a postdoctoral scholar and a mentor. UNMC is committed to facilitating such relationships by offering the highest levels of structural oversight, training, and supplemental workshops and seminars. Acquiring these associated skills are necessary for an independent career.

“Postdocs reporting the greatest amount of structural oversight and formal training are much more likely to say they are satisfied, to give their advisors high ratings, to experience relatively few conflicts with their advisors, and to be more productive in terms of number of publications compared with those with least oversight (p<0.0001) and training (p<.002)” (2005 Sigma Xi Survey of 7,600 U.S. postdocs).

Oversight of training at UNMC (in temporal sequence):

Appointment letter: Oversight  starts with the letter of appointment that details terms of the appointment, salary (UNMC follows the minimum salary level for freshman postdocs), benefits, and UNMC policy for postdoctoral scholars (handbook)

Orientations: The postdocs must attend the mandatory human resources employee orientation within a month of joining UNMC (offered the last Wednesday of every month) detailing policies, guidelines, obligations and rights. In addition, the office of postdoctoral education offers orientation sessions twice a year familiarizing scholars with the Office of Postdoctoral Education, structured oversight, training, sponsored programs, and intellectual property policies.

Individual Development Plans (IDPs): IDPs provide framework for helping postdocs identify their short- and long-term career objectives, set attainable career goals, and discuss their career plans with their mentors. We are encouraging both the scholars and mentors to set up IDPs early in order to reach their respective objectives realistically and successfully without conflict. “A postdoc with an IDP is 40% less likely to be dissatisfied, 30% less likely to have conflict, and has 14% more papers for publication than the one without a plan” (Sigma Xi Survey).

Annual Evaluation: A regular appraisal of performance and training is essential for the successful postdoctoral experience. It allows redressal of shortcomings, and recalibration of short- and long-term goals. Although these mutual performance evaluations should happen every 6 months, we recommend at least an annual evaluation. Given its importance, the completion of the annual evaluation is a must before reappointment. The simplified annual evaluation form takes less than 15 minutes to complete and is followed by a meeting with your mentor. The annual evaluation provides a much-needed opportunity for a discussion if, for any reason, the match is not good for either the scholar and/or the mentor.

Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research (RCR): The Office of Postdoctoral Education facilitates UNMC’s dedication to the highest standards of research integrity and commitment to responsible and ethical conduct for everyone involved in research, including postdocs. The National Science Foundation requires training in the Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research (RCR) for all students and postdocs supported by NSF projects. Therefore, freshman postdocs are required to complete an on-line course created and maintained by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) a nationally-recognized source for research-related training within three months of joining UNMC and attend an RCR seminar which is offered twice a year. NOTE: Reappointment is conditional on the completion of the RCR training.

To succeed in research is a personal triumph that earns and deserves individual recognition. But it is also a communal achievement, for in learning something new the discoverer both draws on and contributes to the body of knowledge held in common by all scientists. Your work can have a direct and immediate impact on society, which ensures that the public will have an interest in the findings and implications of research. Research can entail frustrations and disappointments as well as satisfactions. An experiment may fail because of poor design, technical complications, or the sheer intractability of nature. A favored hypothesis may turn out to be incorrect after months of consuming effort. Colleagues may disagree over the validity of experimental data, the interpretation of results, or credit for work done. Difficulties such as these are virtually impossible to avoid in science. They can strain the composure of the beginning and senior scientist alike. They must confront such questions as: How should anomalous data be treated? How do values influence research? How should credit for scientific accomplishments be allocated? What are the borderlines between honest error, negligent error, and misconduct in science? These questions are of interest to more than just the scientific community. As the influence of scientific knowledge has grown throughout society, nonscientists have acquired a greater interest in assessing the validity of the claims of science. With science becoming an increasingly important social institution, scientists have become more accountable to the broader society that expects to benefit from their work” adapted from On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research (National Academies Press).

The Office of Postdoctoral Education facilitates UNMC’s dedication to the highest standards of research integrity and commitment to responsible and ethical conduct for all those involved in research, including postdocs. The National Science Foundation requires training in the Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research (RCR) for all students and postdocs supported by NSF projects.  Therefore, freshman postdocs are required to complete the following training sessions that will fulfill the requirement of both NIH and NSF.

(1) CITI training: An on-line course created and maintained by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI), a nationally-recognized source for research-related training.  Within three months of joining UNMC, learners are required to complete up to 9 RCR  modules:

 (2) In-Person training: The Office of Postdoctoral Education offers an RCR training seminar in the spring (March) and another in the fall (October).

Note: Your re-appointment is conditional on completion of these two training session. Please send the proof of completion to the Office of the Dean of your school and to the postdoc office.

Other resources:

  1. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research  (National Academies Press)
  2. Introduction to Responsible Conduct of Research, ORI (HHS)(PDF)
  3. NPA website
  4. NSF website
  5. Columbia University website