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NSF postdoc mentoring requirement December 3, 2008

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.
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I just read the Chemical and Engineering News article on NSF grants that support postdocs will now require a description of mentoring planned for the postdoc. A good, altruistic aim.

 But I think, as with similar requirements of supervisors in industry or reviews of teaching professors, there will be little reality to come out of it. Those who are already doing this will be required to think and put down what they already do plus some new ideas. The others will learn a lot of buzzwords, gleening the literature – maybe even my own articles or book! – and not do much if any of it. It will be gamesmanship.

Is there any check or feeback part of this? A professor can readily say X, Y and Z will done – 17 discussions on planning and timelines (that are just the ordinary weekly review meetings) or training on writing manuscripts or proposals (which are only the usual assigning of writing tasks and then their proofing and reviewing) or training in supervision (which is only assigning the postdoc the responsibility over one or two grad students).

The bad mentors could still be as bad. The good ones will still do the same they do, too. The only differences would be that both do more paperwork – one as part of the game of being a successful research professor and the other as an unneeded burden.

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