Strategies to Enhance the Role of Mentors

Mentors are needed at all stages of research training as well as for different groups of students, such as women and minorities. There is no single strategy for increasing and sustaining the number and quality of mentors; several different efforts are needed.

One strategy would be to make more attractive existing programs provide mentorship opportunities for students. The Senior Scientist Award (K05) and the Academic Career Award (K07), offered to both the junior and senior researcher levels,2 could include mentoring qualifications to support this development. These and other awards should be further encouraged and reviewed to ensure that they are attracting the most capable mentors and that the awards are closely coupled with the mentored career development awards for biomedical and behavioral scientists. For example, NIDA and NIAAA in the past jointly sponsored a Career Teacher Training Program—which was cut from the budget during the Reagan years—and placed career teachers in nearly 60 medical schools (Pokorny and Solomon, 1983). These and other programs would be particularly useful if available at the research centers that offer the best training environments in terms of breadth and depth for emerging scientists.

The committee believes there is a critical need for mentors trained in interdisciplinary approaches. The committee supports the development of new pre-and postdoctoral fellowships that provide comprehensive and intensive training in sound research methods and practical research experience in drug addiction, using mentoring by an interdisciplinary group (two or more) of experienced investigators.

Another strategy would be to develop a network of mentors to provide opportunities for co-mentoring when the available mentors at the young investigator's department or institution lack critical expertise in areas required to conduct a particular research project. In those instances, the young investigator would have a mentor on-site but would obtain additional technical assistance from another person who might be located at a different institution. To facilitate geographically remote mentoring relationships, satellite mentoring programs could be established through the network of mentors. To gain a better understanding


Following a recent evaluation of the 19 career award grants (K grants) for new, senior, and clinical scientists, NIH reduced the number to 6 categories and clarified the career development goals of each. The new K awards (K01, K02, K05, K07, K08, K12) offer institutes more flexibility to target and train new investigators and expand the careers of those already in the field. The K07 award is used to support individuals interested in introducing or improving curricula, at the junior level with guidance from a mentor, and at the senior level to improve curricula and enhance the research capacity within an academic institution, thus increasing the visibility and overall support of the field. Over the past several years, NIDA adopted a strategy that increased the number of mentored career development awards (i.e., K01 and K08) from 5 in FY 1991 to 53 in FY 1995.

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