Mentoring Network for Underrepresented Postdoctoral and Early-Career Faculty Investigators

Comments from the American Association for Dental Research

AADR strongly and enthusiastically supports this proposed initiative. AADR commends NIDCR for its efforts to increase the diversity of the dental, oral and craniofacial research workforce. AADR members have provided the following feedback and recommendations: Look to the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) for programmatic elements and metrics for assessing the impact of the network and success of participants. AADR members have participated in the NRMN and speak highly of the program and the frequency and quality of the interactions between mentors and mentees. The NIDCR mentoring network should develop student, mentor and institutional “hallmarks of success” like those developed by the Diversity Program Consortium (https://www.nigms.nih.gov/training/dpc/Pages/success.aspx). For postdoctoral and early career investigators, hallmarks may include

quantitative (grants submitted/received, publications, conference presentations, etc.) and qualitative (engagement, career satisfaction,

career self-efficacy, etc.) measures and others outlined in RFA-RM-18-004 (https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-RM-18-004.html). NIDCR should track participants’ careers after leaving the program. NIDCR should recruit mentors from under-represented groups and couple the mentoring program to strategic faculty hires at research institutions. NIDCR should engage minority-serving institutions to expand the reach of the network and to recruit diverse mentors. NIDCR should also recruit mentors from across

the spectrum of career stages. A growing number of mentors are not tenured. Predominantly ‘soft money’ faculty have to be careful with their time to make sure their own funding obligations and needs are met.There are a growing number of unpaid activities and obligations that non-tenured faculty face which puts a great deal of pressure on the traditional model. NIDCR should consider providing financial and/or other support mechanisms to address this issue and to incentivize potential mentors to participate in the network. Mentorship should include grant-writing; academic job searching and hiring; salary, benefits and startup negotiation; engagement with the appropriate level of academic/professional service; time and resource management; and work-life balance. To facilitate ongoing and meaningful peer-to-peer and mentee-to-mentor interactions, NIDCR may consider an annual in-person retreat; a virtual mentee-led journal club and affinity groups for mentors and mentees with common interests (https://www.aaaspolicyfellowships.org/stay-involved/affinity-groups). Finally, NIDCR is encouraged to engage professional societies in this effort, including general biomedical and behavioral research societies to assist with outreach and programmatic support. NIDCR may be able to take advantage of existing webinars, workshops or other materials already developed by these societies. NIDCR should consider providing travel support to professional meetings for mentees.

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Comment No. 343