and sociology. The length of time to the doctorate has increased for many disciplines in recent years.2
In some fields the duration of postdoctoral training has also increased. These increases reflect the increasing technical complexity of science and engineering and the continually expanding body of knowledge that the trainee must master. Other factors may include the lack of faculty positions and the need in laboratories for cheap labor.
Formal course work required for training also varies considerably among fields and institutions. Course work can involve from 1 to 3 or 4 years of formal courses. The duration of formal course work is important in that, in addition to instruction in a particular field of science or engineering, formal courses can address specific issues in the conduct of scientific research, such as statistics and research practices. Where course work includes formal classes in statistics and allows for discussion of the appropriate use of statistical methods, training reinforces good research practice through instilling concepts of research design, formal hypothesis testing, and the application of appropriate statistical analysis. Formal courses in the ethics of professional and research conduct are now quite common in law and medical schools and are becoming common in business schools. But formal course work can, at best, merely complement the actual substance of the trainee's work, for it is on the job—in the laboratory or the field—where most of research training takes place. To a great extent, research training depends on the mentor-trainee relationship discussed below, and it takes place in the context of the research work itself.
A mentor is defined as that person directly responsible for the professional development of a research trainee. Professional development includes both the explicit conduct of scientific research (e.g., instrument use, research design, observational technique, and theoretical or cognitive frameworks) and the implicit development of scientific standards (e.g., selection of research questions and data, authorship practices, and norms of communication, interpretation, and judgment). It applies to all levels of professional development, from undergraduate work to junior faculty positions, although the focus here is on graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
It is important to realize what the mentor role is not. A mentor is not simply a patron who provides financial and other material support