Research Integrity and Assurance

Mentor/Trainee Responsibilities

Mentor/trainee responsibilities

Mentoring the next generation of scientists is important, but also involves responsibilities for both the mentor and the trainee. In addition to guiding trainees on their path to being independent investigators, mentors should also have regular conversations on the ethical responsibilities and dilemmas in research. 

Successful mentor/trainee relationships are characterized by:

  • cultivation of independence and responsibility
  • open communication and dialogue
  • clear expectations
  • time and effort
  • professionalism

The mentor and the trainee must have a responsibility to each other in order to have a successful mentorship. Setting clear expectations of the relationship and responsibilities is crucial to success. The mentor-trainee relationship is another form of a collaboration, so it is important to have discussions about topics such as authorship and ownership in advance.

Both the mentor and the trainee need to be open to change and feedback. Individuals have different learning styles and needs. Both parties should also discuss what to do if the relationship is not meeting their needs. A mentor-trainee relationship that is not working has potential to be very damaging for both parties.

Preparing a written plan for mentoring and training at the beginning of the mentoring relationship provides a roadmap to attain goals and provides a catalyst for ongoing ethics conversations.  Sponsors such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) require proposals to include a Postdoctoral mentoring plan. Having a written plan in place in advance makes preparation of that piece of the proposal much less burdensome as well.  The NSF plan template and sample are available on the forms page.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) strongly recommends the use of Individual Development Plans (IDP) when training graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. An IDP should be developed by students with input from their faculty mentors.  It is important for students to incorporate ethics training into their plan. 

Many opportunities exist within colleges, units, centers, and laboratories, for faculty to mentor students in responsible conduct in research education through activities that already routinely happen in a research or classroom setting, including:

  • Research methods courses
  • Departmental faculty meetings
  • Training sessions offered by Institutional Review Boards, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees, and Institutional Biosafety Committees
  • Experiential research programs for graduate and undergraduate students
  • Orientation sessions for new faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and graduate assistants
  • Training sessions for new department chairs
  • Departmental activities such as dissertation groups, seminar series, journal clubs
  • Institution-wide lecture or discussion series
  • Professional development programming offered by the graduate school
  • Activities sponsored by graduate student and postdoctoral organizations
  • Discussion of scholarly articles related to ethical considerations in research
  • Discussion of published misconduct cases    

Faculty can utilize the "Investigator Training Log" on the forms page to document their ethics discussions with students. The form can be modified for individual students to document their ethics training history as well.

Faculty dashboard

Faculty can track the status of their students’ Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training on the RCR Faculty Dashboard.  The dashboard uses the abbreviations RCRTRN for Phase 1 online training and RCRPH2 for Phase 2 in-person workshop training.  The dashboard utilizes student ASURITEs instead of their names.  For assistance in using the dashboard, contact us. 

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