Washington Update

FASEB Sessions at NPA Conference Focus on Early-career Scientists

By: Jacqueline Robinson-Hamm and France-Elvie Banda
Thursday, April 13, 2023
FASEB is presenting two poster sessions at the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) conference in Philadelphia on April 21 and 22. The posters will highlight FASEB’s efforts in supporting early-career scientists.

“Reverse Mentoring in STEM: Changing Perspectives to Foster Dialogue” summarizes key findings from FASEB’s Leadership Engagement and Appreciation of Differences (LEAD) program. Reverse mentoring pairs a senior-level mentee with a junior-level mentor, providing key insights into personal and professional needs of participants. Although common in the corporate world, reverse mentoring has yet to gain traction in academic research settings. FASEB’s LEAD program established a reverse mentoring mechanism for scientists and staff at scientific societies to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of differences between individuals at different career stages and lived experiences. 

LEAD allows different actors within the biological and biomedical research community to gain an understanding of how diverse lives experiences and perspectives shape our decision-making and career trajectory. Based on applications from the 2022 application cycle, there was nearly an equal amount of interest in the LEAD program from junior- and senior-level professionals, with 45% applying as mentors and 55% applying as mentees. This indicates a mutual need for connection across differences within the scientific research community. Results from the initiation period survey, completed three months into the October 2022 LEAD cohort reveal that about 86% of the pairs are extremely satisfied in their mentoring relationships.  As the program develops, long-term data will assess the program’s impact on changes in participants’ decision-making process in their sphere of influence.

“Best Practices for Societies to Support Early Career Scientists” highlights work from FASEB’s Early Career Representative Engagement Task Force. Specifically, the task force deployed an online survey in spring 2022 and findings from the postdoctoral participants are emphasized. Across all sectors, postdoctoral scholars cited early-stage career preparation as a key professional development need more than average, and postdoctoral scholars from historically excluded communities expressed this need more frequently than those who hold a majority identity. Postdoctoral scholars in academic settings were also more likely to experience unsupportive work environments and feel unprepared for career transition compared to other career stages. These, and other findings, informed a series of best practices for scientific societies to support early-career scientists. Best practices especially relevant for postdoctoral scholars include scientific societies intentionally connecting scientists to expand networks and mentors, supporting members preparing for career transition, creating affinity-based interest groups, and ensuring the early-career perspective is included in society governance. 

If you cannot attend the in-person conference in Philadelphia, engage with FASEB’s content during NPA’s online conference on May 11 and 12. Register here.