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Developing a Mentoring Plan for NSF Proposals


In January 2009, the National Science Foundation implemented a provision in the America COMPETES act which requires a section on mentoring in NSF proposals that include postdoctoral scholars. The mentoring plan should be a separate section within the 15-page project description and should provide a description of the mentoring goals and activities. (See Summary of Significant Changes in the NSF Grants Proposal Guide). NSF guidelines state that proposals should not use "boiler plate" language; however, we recommend that you consider addressing the following elements. Following this list are examples of mentoring plans prepared by others as well as guidance provided at some other universities for their investigators. You may also wish to consult some of the literature on mentoring found on the Resources page.

  • Bring to their attention that Oregon State University has an Office of Postdoctoral Programs (OPP) that provides support for postdoctoral scholars and postdoctoral supervisors through training workshops and individual consultation. As of 2012, OSU Postdoctoral Association (OPA) also provides an a social and support network for OSU's postdocs across campus.
  • Explain how you will structure training for research and professional development. How will you communicate your expectations for the postdoctoral scholar and how will you learn about the postdoctoral scholar's expectations? The "gold standard" is the creation of an individual development plan. See Guidance from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). If you are willing to do this, mention it in your proposal. If you are not prepared to make that commitment, describe what you will do to begin the training and research process.
  • Indicate how frequently you will meet with your postdoc to review research and discuss career goals.
  • Describe frequency and nature of journal clubs, lab meetings, and other group meetings at which the postdoc will have the opportunity or requirement to present research results.
  • Describe additional facilities that are available for research or training in addition to those described in other parts of the research proposal.
  • Describe opportunities for collaboration that present learning opportunities that you or your laboratory plan to make available during the project.
  • Describe travel support for postdocs to attend regional, national and/or international scientific meetings to facilitate their training and to provide networkng opportunities.
  • If relevant, indicate that you will require your postdocs to attend training programs on ethical and safety issues related to Human Subjects research and use of laboratory animals. RCR training may be provided by the Graduate School and/or the Research Office and/or individual departments. Refer to these training opportunities as you comment on your plans for training.
  • In addition to the RCR training sessions, other workshops and resources are provided at OSU (see the mentoring page for examples of other OSU resources that you may encourage your postdoc to draw on. If you will encourage your postdoc to use these resources, you may wish to say so.
  • Describe how you will train your postdocs in grant writing, manuscript preparation and review.
  • Describe your plans for conducting the annual performance review. (Annual performance reviews of postdocs is a requirement for your progress reports to NSF. If you have a vision for how this will be conducted, it is helpful to describe them in your mentoring proposal.)

Guidance Documents at Other University