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Journal Article

Effective mentoring ensures the progress of science


Reetz,  Manfred T.
Research Department Reetz, Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Max Planck Society;
Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences;

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Reetz, M. T. (2020). Effective mentoring ensures the progress of science. Journal of Biology, 37(6). doi:10.3969/j.issn.2095-1736.2020.06.001.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-47DA-3
Mentoring doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows effectively is a crucial responsibility of every professor worldwide because it ensures the progress of science. However, every mentor has his/her own style, which is determined by the personal temperament of the mentor in different cultural settings. Some international standards exist, which include ethical requirements. In this invited essay, I describe my own personal mentoring style without claiming that everyone should adopt it. I am convinced that effective mentoring is a two-way process between mentor and mentee. Consequently, I present guidelines for both mentors and for mentees. Mentors should allow mentees to voice their own opinions and ideas about research projects, and mentees should not be afraid to insist on these freedoms. A good mentor sends his/her coworkers to national and international conferences and symposia, and if this is neglected, the mentee should remind the mentor of this practice, which allows the mentee to present lectures or posters, and to form international networks for possible scientific collaborations. I have always asked my coworkers not to use a blown-up language for grossly exaggerating their results, neither in lectures, posters nor on websites, but mentors should likewise adhere to a tone-downed language. It is necessary that the mentor invests time in guiding the mentee on how to write optimal scientific papers, including the crucial choice of the title. Finally, I have always encouraged all coworkers to relax long enough on weekends in order to rejuvenate, which allows them to return to work in the laboratory with fresh enthusiasm and new innovative ideas. In the case of foreign postdocs, this ideally includes sufficient travel during vacation time to some German cities with visits to museums and possibly attendance of concerts or theaters, allowing them to learn the rudiments of German history and culture, knowledge that will be of use in their later careers. Vice versa, German postdocs in foreign countries, e.g., China, should not just engage in scientific research, but should also learn the basics of the culture of that particular country.