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Academic Careers for Experimental Computer Scientists and Engineers
Recognizing these differences, computer science and engineering departments need to be proactive in helping to establish mentoring and advocacy relationships between junior and senior faculty members. (As used here, mentoring refers to advice from a senior faculty member to a junior faculty member. Advocacy refers to commentary, input, and argument from a senior faculty member to department chairs, deans, and others higher up in the university hierarchy in arguing for and promoting the interests of a junior faculty member.)
These arrangements should be made openly and explicitly. Young faculty should know from the start whom to consult for advice and counseling. They will appreciate the help and attention, and the department will have created a positive factor in retaining and recruiting first-rate faculty. The senior faculty members who take on mentoring and advocacy roles should be encouraged to meet, discuss their situations, and find ways to support each other. The more general types of guidance are listed below, and Box 5.1 describes specific mentoring tasks.
Given the time and resource demands of ECSE, a junior faculty member must "hit the ground running" to be successful. In all but the most unusual cases, the process is bootstrapped: early research success using start-up resources and no graduate students is parlayed into funding that can support a more ambitious implementation effort with graduate students who should by then be trained. The more ambitious artifact must be completed in time to perform the experiments so that the results can be disseminated to the community early enough for the work to be evaluated by the tenure letter writers.
Senior faculty mentors have an important role in facilitating such an outcome. In addition to technical assistance, senior faculty can provide advice about practical aspects of experimental work, such as managing time, money, and space. They can also provide guidance about the expectations for tenure. Following are several areas in which mentoring senior faculty can play important roles:
Establishing cooperative and collaborative environments. Since junior faculty generally lack reputations that attract resources, they are often dependent on senior faculty to obtain entry to established laboratories that can provide needed equipment, staff, and technical skills, as well as an intellectual community. Junior faculty without funding of their own can participate in existing grants while seeking independent sources of funding. New projects that start surrounded by established activities enjoy an increased likelihood of success.