Research Press Release

Social sciences: Mentors and the secret to scientists’ success

Nature Communications

November 28, 2018

Researchers in the life sciences who train with graduate and postdoctoral mentors with varied expertise, and synthesize this into their own work, are more successful in their academic career, reports a paper in Nature Communications. The study also suggests that postdoctoral mentors are more instrumental to trainees' success compared to graduate mentors.

Before obtaining a tenure track position in academia, many scientists undergo post-doctoral training. Although successful mentors are likely to train successful mentees, the exact parameters that define this success have been unclear.

Jean Lienard and colleagues examined a database of researchers who have undergone graduate and postdoctoral training, and documented their training relationships. Focusing mainly on neuroscientists and life scientists, the authors examined approximately 18,800 scientist trios (mentee, mentor, and mentor’s mentor), and used a data-driven approach to evaluate the divergence in research topic between mentor and mentee. By correlating academic success as defined by obtaining independent positions and taking on the next generation of trainees, the authors found that researchers have a higher likelihood of academic success if they diverge, but also synthesize approaches from their mentors’ research topics.


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