Date: July 23, 1997
Contacts: Barbara J. Rice, Deputy Director
April Sellers, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; Internet <>

Publication Announcement

Guide Offers Advice on Mentoring
Science and Engineering Students

A successful mentor encourages students to develop to their fullest potential and offers assistance with their search for a suitable career, thus creating an environment where the students' accomplishments are limited only by the extent of their talent. But who mentors the mentors?

A new guide from the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy -- a joint committee of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine -- offers mentoring advice for faculty, administrators, and all others who counsel science and engineering students. It also outlines specific steps that institutions can take to improve the quality of the mentoring that their students receive.

"The changing employment conditions of scientists and engineers has also changed what constitutes good mentoring," said David Challoner, chair of the group that oversaw the project. "This guide, produced at the urging of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, will provide new sources of information to faculty that can assist them."

Third in a series on science and engineering education and careers, the guide was written with input from experienced mentors as well as students. It features a list of the fundamental practices of a successful mentor, vignettes that illustrate good and bad examples of mentoring, advice for new mentors, and pointers on the different kinds of guidance needed by undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students as well as junior faculty.

The most direct way to improve the quality of mentoring is to reward good efforts. The guide stresses that mentoring goals need to become embedded in institutional policies and systems. Evaluations of faculty for promotions and tenure should include an assessment of how well they have served in the role of mentor. Other steps that institutions can take include:

>Offering guidance for new faculty and advisers through briefings, workshops, the assignment of senior mentors, and information about campus and Internet resources. Periodic discussions could permit senior faculty to describe good practices. Other topics to explore include professional standards, ethical values, and the balance between a career and personal life.

>Providing counselors who are not only knowledgeable about various academic choices but also can offer students and their advisers up-to-date information on the full range of educational and career opportunities open to scientists and engineers, including industrial internships, part-time and summer placements, and classes outside their discipline.

>Monitoring quality of faculty performance through departmental oversight, student evaluations, time-to-degree data, and student performance.

>Holding annual seminars that update faculty on the latest employment trends and internship opportunities and on issues such as appropriate faculty-student relations and cultural and ethnic concerns.

>Creating an institutional award for distinguished mentors. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have recently instituted such awards on the national level. Recognition at the institutional level is a key first step.

Additional sections of the guide address career planning, time management, professional development, responsible scientific conduct, and writing. To assist the mentors, lists of important bibliographical and Internet resources on mentoring and related topics are provided.

Development of this guide was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine are private, non-profit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.

Copies of Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering are available from the National Academy Press for $7.95 (prepaid) for single copies plus shipping charges of $4.00 for the first copy and $.50 for each additional copy; tel. 202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Discounts are available for bulk purchases. Reporters may obtain copies from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).


Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy STATEMENT ON MENTORING FROM
President of the National Academy of Sciences
July 23, 1997

An academic experience in science or engineering is a challenging and exciting intellectual pursuit. It can also be fraught with intense pressures and frustrations: how to balance a heavy courseload with family responsibilities; what research avenue to pursue; what career path to follow. Young scientists and engineers need strong, creative mentors to provide them with wise guidance as well as with friendship. The future of science and engineering, so important to the health and prosperity of the world, depends on the skillful mentoring of each new generation by the one that precedes it.