Students benefit greatly from interactions with faculty, as do faculty from interactions with students. The faculty embody the skills, experience, and wisdom essential to success in science; they serve as models for how one conducts his or her life in balance with a demanding career; and certain faculty – thesis advisors and thesis advisory committee members – take critical parts in guiding students in reaching their scholarly potential. Students provide enthusiasm, intelligence, and a variety of life and scholastic experiences that are of great value to research programs of faculty. They are committed to training in scientific thought and process, a step that aligns their goals with those of the faculty. As students mature within science, the sense of accomplishment is shared by them and faculty alike. Success in mentorship plays out in many different ways. Regardless, it is essential to recognize the respective obligations and to astutely manage potential conflicts.
The term mentor in science is often synonymous with faculty adviser. Mentoring, however, is more than advising. It includes dimensions of traditions, values, and attitudes, career advancement, and involvement in the student’s life. Obligations inherent to being a faculty adviser are straightforward. Those of being a mentor are less clear and more challenging. Very few would disagree that having a top-notch scientific adviser is great, but having one who is also a mentor is extraordinary.
From an ethical/moral standpoint, one should be cognizant of the trust and respect that is implicit to mentorship and that students – through inexperience and dependency – are vulnerable. Conflicts can, and very often do, arise on this front. Flashpoints include expectations regarding time and intensity devoted to work, allocation of student effort among different projects, credit for work or ideas, and perceptions of favoritism. These conflicts must be handled with great care.
Policies and Guidelines
BGS provides a document outlining the obligations of faculty and students within the context of mentorship. They are provided here: Responsibilities of BGS Thesis Mentors, Thesis Students, and Thesis Advisory Committee Members
Two textbooks provide excellent discussions of data acquisition and management. Both are electronically accessible through the Biomedical Library. These are:
Scientific Integrity, F.L. Macrina, 4th ed.
Responsible Conduct of Research, A.E. Shamoo and D.B. Resnick, 3rd ed.