NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Policy and Global Affairs; Board on Higher Education and Workforce; Committee on Effective Mentoring in STEMM; Dahlberg ML, Byars-Winston A, editors. The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2019 Oct 30.

Cover of The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM

The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM.

Show details

8Findings and Recommendations

Mentorship serves an essential role in the process of enabling students to become science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) professionals. Despite the influential role that mentorship plays in academic STEMM culture, it rarely receives the focused attention, evaluation, and recognition that other aspects of the professional development process receive, such as teaching and research. Mentorship is a skill that is learned, practiced, and improved upon with self-reflection and feedback, and mentorship can be investigated empirically to understand how it works and to improve its practice.

In this report, the committee has

  • provided an evidence-based definition for mentorship and mentoring relationships;
  • discussed theoretical frameworks useful for understanding mentorship processes and contexts;
  • described the importance of acknowledging and building a mentee's identity in mentoring relationships, particularly for individuals belonging to populations that are underrepresented (UR) in STEMM,1 and of changing institutional culture to support effective mentorship in STEMM for all students, not just a select few;
  • examined the multiple factors that create beneficial STEMM mentoring relationships and provided examples of approaches, structures, and programs that can provide effective mentorship;
  • reviewed the challenges of assessing mentorship in STEMM; and
  • outlined actions at all levels, from students and faculty to institutional leadership, to make effective mentorship in STEMM the expected norm.

By bringing together a more complete understanding of the suite of factors that can affect a mentoring relationship, mentorship can receive the more focused attention, evaluation, and recognition it deserves. An enterprise-wide commitment to effective mentorship in STEMM could lead to effective, high-quality, and sustainable mentoring relationships at all career stages, and it could increase student recruitment, retention, engagement, and success in STEMM. This is particularly important for UR students in STEMM, for whom an absence of effective mentorship could disproportionately influence retention and persistence. Supporting effective mentorship and mitigating negative mentoring experiences will likely result in a more diverse and inclusive STEMM workplace, which in turn will be more creative, innovative, and responsive to current and emerging problems.

This chapter presents seven sets of findings reached in the prior seven chapters and nine sets of recommendations for action. The committee hopes the STEMM community at large will adopt and implement these recommendations, thereby creating an ecosystem that supports effective mentorship, bolsters the opportunities and likelihood of success for the next generation of diverse undergraduate and graduate students in STEMM, and more fully cultivates the diversity of talented STEMM professionals throughout the U.S. economy that can address the critical issues facing humanity.

FINDING 1: Sociodemographic Diversity Provides Benefits to STEMM that May Be Underrealized

Scientific progress relies on collaborative problem solving. Teams comprising individuals with diverse experiences and areas of expertise often ask different questions and tend to be more creative and innovative in how they answer those questions. Diversity in the STEMM workforce improves work performance and engagement, enhances the quality of research conducted and provision of health care delivered, and promotes innovation and growth. At the same time, increasing diversity in the STEMM workforce will expand economic opportunity to a greater percentage of the nation's population and meet the growing demand for STEMM-trained professionals.

There is widespread recognition that lack of diversity among STEMM practitioners deprives segments of the population from participation in what are projected to be among the fastest-growing sectors of the economy. Yet, a variety of factors—including a lack of access to effective mentorship and a need to subsume other aspects of their identities in the name of fitting into a predominantly White, male STEMM culture—continue to keep students from UR groups from choosing and remaining in STEMM disciplines. While effective and culturally responsive mentorship can mitigate issues of identity interference, some negative mentoring experiences have been linked to attrition, especially for UR students. Unfortunately, the majority of undergraduates entering STEM fields leave those fields before completing a bachelor's degree, with UR students leaving STEM fields at higher rates than their overrepresented counterparts. Further research on both effective mentorship and negative mentoring experiences is needed to determine how the STEMM workforce and ecosystem are affected.

(See Chapters 1, 3, 5, and 7 for more information.)

FINDING 2: Effective Mentorship Is Associated with Positive Mentee Outcomes

Mentorship across a broad range of professional domains has an overall positive effect on academic achievement, retention, and degree attainment as well as on career success, career satisfaction, and career commitment. Mentoring experiences have been found to influence mentees' persistence and performance outcomes. At the same time, mentees' perceptions of the quality of their mentored experiences are key drivers in positive behavioral outcomes such as STEMM degree attainment, especially among UR individuals in STEMM fields. Despite the positive effect of mentorship, UR individuals enrolled in STEMM degree programs typically receive less mentorship than their well-represented peers.

Effective mentorship involves receiving both career support and psychosocial support. Career support often results in better career outcomes, such as greater publication output for graduate students, whereas psychosocial support helps produce outcomes that are crucial for student well-being and other criteria necessary for persistence and productivity, such as greater satisfaction with the mentoring relationship and commitment to one's academic program. Graduate students who have positive mentoring relationships are more likely to persist in their academic decisions, and mentored graduate students are more likely to publish their research than are those who are not mentored. For undergraduates, participating in mentored research experiences has been linked to retention in STEMM, while mentee perceptions of mentor effectiveness—at least in part—predicts enrollment in science-related doctoral programs.

(See Chapters 2, 3, and 6 for more information.)

FINDING 3: Effective Mentorship Involves Intentionality

Mentorship in STEMM has largely been practiced without systematic efforts to prepare for, structure, and reflect on mentoring relationships. The research synthesized in this report shows that effective mentoring relationships are characterized by trust, and trust develops when mentors and mentees work together to identify and respond to their mutual goals, needs, and priorities, which can change over time and thus require adjustment. This level of personalization and responsiveness requires intentionality,2 including intentional preparation and careful application of evidence-based practices. Multiple theories indicate that intentionality that manifests at all levels of higher education, from the individual to the department, institution, and discipline levels, is more likely to result in effective mentorship for all students. Furthermore, intentionality in mentorship gives mentees the latitude to seek out additional forms of mentoring support, such as co-mentorship and peer mentorship.

(See Chapters 4 and 7 for more information.)

Finding 3.1: Theory can guide the development of effective mentorship practices

There are multiple theoretical perspectives useful for characterizing mentorship and its antecedents and outcomes. Some theories account for contextual factors, while others emphasize the mentor, mentee, and mentoring relationship at the individual level—and both types can and do influence the practices of mentorship. Interpersonal processes that operate in the context of the mentoring relationship are one foundational aspect of mentorship supported by multiple theories. Theory also supports the idea that individual and environmental factors are salient to the effectiveness of a mentoring relationship.

(See Chapter 2 for more information.)

Finding 3.2: Effective mentorship involves building interpersonal trust

Mentoring relationships that build on and actively cultivate bilateral trust, as well as mutual accountability and responsibility, are more effective. Effective mentorship behaviors are largely characterized by trust and responsiveness in offering career and psychosocial support to mentees across mentoring stages and in multiple forms, such as formal and informal mentoring structures. Many factors have been identified as being supportive of the mentoring relationship, particularly for identification, developing interpersonal comfort, building trust, and setting expectations. These factors include having a mentor who shares surface-level similarities, such as race and gender; who has been through similar experiences based on a shared identity; or who shares deep-level similarities such as shared goals, interests, values, and attitudes. Additionally, mentees in informal relationships may develop greater trust with their mentor and identify with them to a greater extent than mentees in formal relationships, thereby perceiving a higher-quality relationship.

(See Chapters 3, 4, and 5 for more information.)

Finding 3.3: Effective mentorship evolves through different stages

Because mentorship is a working alliance, it takes place in a series of stages: initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition. Attending to the mentoring needs and potential relational challenges that can arise across mentoring stages will enhance overall quality of and satisfaction with mentorship.

(See Chapter 2 for more information.)

Finding 3.4: Effective mentorship is personalized and responsive

Ongoing collaboration and discussions are key to initiating and sustaining an effective mentoring relationship that is responsive to the needs, goals, interests, and priorities of both mentors and mentees. Effective mentorship entails critical and honest self-reflection at multiple stages of the mentorship process. It includes psychosocial and career support, as well as networking opportunities tailored to the needs, interests, and priorities of mentees, and it contributes to their feeling of being successfully integrated into STEMM fields and their confidence in their ability to do research, a key predictor of persistence in STEMM.

(See Chapters 3 and 5 for more information.)

Finding 3.5: Mentoring can occur in multiple configurations

Typically, mentorship in STEMM is assumed to occur between one mentor and one mentee, or what is known as a mentorship dyad. While dyads continue to serve an important role for mentorship in STEMM, mentorship has expanded conceptually and operationally to include a broader range of structures to better support mentees' development. Effective mentorship structures include triads, collective or group mentoring, mentoring networks, and emerging online and e-mentoring communities.

In STEMM, effectively co-mentored students are able to develop more quickly, acquire more complex research management skills, and become more independent. Triads—relationships among three people—are associated with superior outcomes for undergraduate students if they involve direct interaction among all members (closed triads). Peer mentorship groups have been reported to promote collaboration, provide mentees with psychosocial and career support, increase dedication to a STEMM major, and increase retention. A mentoring network can foster mutually beneficial and less hierarchical exchanges; provide more relational and reciprocal mentorship; and provide support, affirmative spaces, and accountability. Non-dyadic mentoring structures can span levels of expertise, cross disciplines, and provide developmentally adapted mentorship.

(See Chapter 4 for more information.)

FINDING 4: Identities Are Important for Inclusive and Effective Mentorship

The development of an identity associated with science is an important factor in the retention and success of mentees in STEMM fields, particularly for individuals from UR groups. How an individual's science identity fits with other social identities, such as gender, race, or socioeconomic status, has a significant effect on an individual's career goals. In fact, UR scientists, compared with scientists from well-represented backgrounds, must balance many more social and cultural identities that are less compatible with the socially accepted, normative identity of a scientist who is a White, middle-to upper-class, able-bodied, heteronormative man. Effective mentoring relationships employ competency- or skills-based, inclusive practices to help students see themselves as STEMM scholars with the potential to make meaningful contributions to their disciplines. This in turn enhances mentee outcomes, experiences, and retention in STEMM and helps to create inclusive learning experiences that benefit all mentees and their mentors, regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

(See Chapters 3 and 5 for more information.)

Finding 4.1: Effective mentorship helps integrate identities

Mentorship can ameliorate the negative effects of students' feelings of being “othered” in STEMM by increasing inclusion and psychosocial support. Positive mentor-mentee relationships and effective mentoring are particularly important for integrating women and UR students into the STEMM academic community. Moreover, positive mentor-mentee relationships and quality mentorship have been shown to increase recruitment, retention, and continuation of UR mentees into graduate school and research-related career paths.

Engaging in culturally responsive mentoring, whereby mentors show interest in and value students' cultural backgrounds and their non-STEMM social identities, is one strategy mentors can implement to validate their mentees' multiple identities, especially in cross-racial relationships. Instruction in culturally responsive mentorship can lead to gains in cultural awareness and culturally sensitive skills, as well as increased intentions and confidence to address cultural diversity in mentorship. Mentees without access to culturally responsive mentoring can experience identity interference or identity conflict and concealment, which is the perceived or actual discordance between different aspects of an individual's identity. Identity interference can result in depression, reduced psychological well-being, and lower academic or professional performance. Affinity-based mentorship groups have been used successfully to support individuals from UR groups in STEMM who may not otherwise have access to culturally responsive mentorship.

(See Chapters 3, 5, and 7 for more information.)

Finding 4.2: Effective mentorship involves crossing cultural boundaries if they exist

Because mentoring relationships by their nature involve culturally diverse individuals interacting with one another, mentorship is a culturally embedded endeavor. However, many faculty mentors in STEMM fields can unintentionally devalue cultural and social diversity in mentoring relationships and neglect the importance social identities have in shaping their mentees' academic experiences. An important aspect of many UR mentees' social identities is their racial identity. While mentors may honestly believe that holding “colorblind” views is a good thing, trust is more likely to develop when mentor and mentee agree on the significance or insignificance of race in the relationship and workplace. Crossing cultural boundaries often requires mentors to move out of familiar and prescribed ways of interacting and communicating so that they can forge relationships built on honesty, equity, reciprocity, respect, and integrity.

(See Chapter 3 for more information.)

Finding 4.3: Shared beliefs, values, and interests can be more important than demographic identity matching for effective mentorship

Many UR students prefer to have mentors of the same race and gender and who have life experiences similar to their own, including experiences pertaining to race, ethnicity, and gender. However, the opportunity to maximize, for example, same-race mentorship is challenged by the scarcity of UR faculty in STEMM, leading UR students to believe they cannot find safe spaces in which they can discuss their identities and interests. Another challenge is that UR tenure-track faculty who mentor UR undergraduate students may not receive the professional benefits, rewards, or recognition from mentoring at their institutions and may experience greater emotional and workload costs.

Prior research is equivocal regarding the importance and influence of race and gender match, but at least some research supports the notion that deep-level similarity, meaning having shared beliefs, values, and interests, is more predictive of relationship quality and desirable mentee outcomes. Having a mentor of the same gender and race/ethnic background is not necessarily associated with differences in outcomes such as grade point average, self-efficacy, or confidence about their fit in science. In fact, having a mentor from a well-represented background may provide access to resources and privilege that otherwise may be difficult for UR students to access. Mentors of different identities who work intentionally to be culturally responsive and who understand power dynamics and oppression have successfully fulfilled the needs of UR students. Furthermore, faculty mentors of UR students can help by working with them to navigate invalidating experiences and reinforce their self-efficacy.

In addition, UR faculty are limited in number, may be underrecognized and under-rewarded for their work as mentors, and “taxed” because of the personal and professional costs of working with a disproportionately large number of mentees. However, members of the current well-represented STEMM academic community can work as partners and ally with UR faculty to change the status quo without unduly burdening UR faculty.

(See Chapters 3, 4, 5, and 7 for more information.)

FINDING 5: Effective Mentorship Is a Learned and Developed Skill

Mentorship is a learned skill, and mentorship education influences mentor and mentee attitudes, self-efficacy, and behaviors. Mentorship skill development benefits from instruction, practice, feedback, self-reflection, and intention. Operating on the assumption that mentors and mentees have the skills and knowledge to build successful relationships without formal mentorship education favors mentee populations that already possess the social capital to connect with their mentors.

(See Chapters 2 and 5 for more information).

Finding 5.1: Mentorship education programs are effective

Programs developed to foster mentorship skills have been shown to help mentors and mentees advance their skills in multiple areas. Mentors who participate in tested mentorship education view themselves as more skilled and are viewed by their mentees as more competent mentors than mentors who do not participate in such education. Faculty who engaged in mentorship education report gains across a range of skills, including accounting for the biases and prejudices they bring into a mentoring relationship and working effectively with mentees with different personal backgrounds. Mentees who participate in mentorship education report improvement in research skills, knowledge, and confidence, and note that such professional development helped them learn how to effectively communicate and interact with their mentors.

Mentorship education can be provided in different modes. In-person education has been shown to be highly effective, and some specific online trainings have produced gains similar to face-to-face trainings. Professional societies, such as STEMM disciplinary associations and organizations, can also provide opportunities for faculty to share approaches to mentorship and learn from peers, and offer venues for discussion of mentorship research and interventions.

(See Chapter 5 for more information.)

Finding 5.2: Mentoring tools can assist in effective mentorship

Mentoring compacts or plans provide a structure for mentors to outline expectations from, and commitments to, mentees—and vice versa. Individual development plans facilitate skills identification and support structured bilateral engagement and personalization in the mentoring exchanges. Mentor maps can be a useful tool to help mentees identify mentoring needs and seek out specific mentors or mentoring resources.

(See Chapter 5 for more information.)

Finding 5.3: Mentorship is not always positive

Mentoring quality exists as a continuum and can include negative mentoring experiences or problematic events. Mentorship becomes less effective when mentors are absent, set unrealistic expectations, or do not provide clear and relevant guidance. Other negative mentoring experiences can include mentor-mentee mismatch in working styles, values, and personalities; distancing behavior such as self-absorption of the mentor and neglect of the mentee; manipulative behavior, such as the mentor inappropriately delegating work to the mentee or taking credit for the mentee's work; lack of mentor expertise, including both technical (skill- or career-related) and interpersonal incompetence; and general dysfunctionality, such as mentors having negative attitudes or personal problems. While negative mentoring experiences can occasionally arise from ill intent, negative outcomes from mentoring can also arise from otherwise good intentions. Although there are no systematic studies in postsecondary STEMM contexts, there are many anecdotal reports suggesting that negative mentoring experiences may be common.

(See Chapter 5 for more information.)

FINDING 6: Mentorship Processes and Outcomes Can Be Measured

Measurement of mentoring behaviors and mentorship outcomes furthers the understanding of how various processes lead to outcomes associated with effective mentorship and can thereby improve its practice. Measures based on a sound theoretical framework can define, align, and guide mentors' and mentees' perceptions and behavior within their relationships to achieve positive benefits from mentorship. While measures of mentoring relationship processes from the perspectives of mentees, mentors, or programs and institutions exist, the validity for these measures varies substantially. Additionally, important areas of STEMM mentorship have not been assessed.

Measures from the mentee perspective have examined the types of career and psychosocial support received and mentees' ratings of relationship quality with their mentors. Measures from the mentor perspective have assessed a variety of behaviors categorized as career or psychosocial support. Measures of mentorship at the department, college, university, or professional association level are much more limited.

Measures can be either adapted from existing ones or developed for postsecondary STEMM, but the decision is not trivial, particularly given limited empirical evidence supporting the assertion that context-specific measures necessarily result in enhanced measurement or prediction. Development and validation work on STEMM-specific measures can supplement broad mentoring measures with STEMM context-specific behaviors. Valid measures are available for assessing mentorship at the individual level from both the mentor and the mentee perspective, but there are few valid measures at levels beyond the individual, though some exist at the program level.

(See Chapter 6 for more information.)

FINDING 7: Broadening Access to Effective Mentorship Is Contingent on Institutional Change

While effective mentorship is already in practice at many institutions, barriers to widespread dissemination and implementation of even the most effective interventions in STEMM mentorship include lack of time, resources, rewards, expertise, and confidence to implement. Broader access to quality mentorship and support systems at academic institutions may entail significant institutional change.

(See Chapter 7 for more information.)

Finding 7.1: Changes in institutional rewards systems can enhance mentoring provision and quality

A commitment from institutional leadership to support mentorship could have a profound effect on the quality of mentorship and ultimately the development of undergraduate and graduate students. For example, significant culture change in the practice and rewards for mentorship at academic institutions is likely necessary to enable broader access to effective mentorship. Even though many institutions have implemented awards for mentorship excellence, the system of rewarding and highlighting exceptional mentorship often does little to communicate mentorship expectations for faculty who are not awardees. In addition, few institutions systematically incorporate accountability for mentoring into faculty promotion and tenure decisions. Mentorship quality could become a carefully tracked and managed component of universities' and research organizations' performance appraisal systems for faculty and other researchers who engage in STEMM mentoring.

(See Chapter 7 for more information.)

Finding 7.2: Mentors and mentees can influence institutional changes

Faculty have the potential to significantly influence the culture of mentorship through their own mentoring relationships, through the relationships of those who work on their research teams, and in their programs and departments. Mentees can also be agents for improvements in mentorship, by advocating for access to effective practices, by actively contributing to their mentored relationships, and by engaging in mentorship themselves.

(See Chapter 7 for more information.)

Finding 7.3: Outside agents can spur institutional changes

Some funding agencies are encouraging quality mentorship by requiring mentoring plans in grant applications and the reporting of some mentoring outcomes and of mentor and mentee diversity. Funding agencies can further encourage culture change in mentorship by requiring evidence-based mentorship plans, mentor and mentee education, and reports of mentorship quality and outcomes for grantees.

(See Chapter 7 for more information.)


The committee presents nine sets of recommendations to encourage a shift away from a culture of ad hoc mentorship and toward one of intentional, inclusive, and effective mentorship in all institutional contexts (e.g., minority-serving institutions, undergraduate-only institutions, research-intensive institutions, academic medical centers). For the first seven sets of recommendations, the committee lays out specific roles for various participants in the mentorship ecosystem—including institutional leadership (e.g., presidents, provosts, deans), department chairs, program leaders (e.g., research, training, and graduate program directors), mentors (faculty members, staff, and others who have extensive contact with graduate and undergraduate students), and mentees (undergraduate and graduate students participating in mentoring programs and other mentoring relationships), and professional associations. The last two sets of recommendations are directed at agencies that fund mentorship programs and scholars of mentorship.

The committee's recommendations are best understood in the context of a common understanding of mentorship. Therefore, the first recommendation is directed toward all participants in the mentorship ecosystem.

Recommendation 1: Adopt an Operational Definition of Mentorship in STEMM

Institutions and programs should adopt an evidence-based, operational definition of mentorship, such as the one used by the committee in its work:

Mentorship is a professional, working alliance in which individuals work together over time to support the personal and professional growth, development, and success of the relational partners through the provision of career and psychosocial support.

Mentorship is operationalized for STEMM contexts through the career support functions (e.g., career guidance, skill development, sponsorship) and psychosocial support functions (e.g., psychological and emotional support, role modeling) aimed at mentee talent development. Mentorship complements other developmental processes like teaching or coaching to support mentees in developing knowledge and skills, and is essential to the holistic development of scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians, and physicians, including but not limited to developing a strong identity as a STEMM professional, developing confidence in one's ability to work as a STEMM professional, and successfully navigating the culture of STEMM.

Recommendation 2: Use an Evidenced-Based Approach to Support Mentorship


Institutional and departmental leadership should support the use of evidence-based mentoring practices by both mentors and mentees, starting with new faculty and student orientation. Support should include tested mentorship education curricula, resources, and tools (guided discussions, mentoring compacts, individual development plans, and mentor maps) as well as time for professional development and mechanisms for feedback, improvement, and accountability.


Program leaders should support mentorship by ensuring there are evidence-based guidelines, tools, and processes for mentors and mentees to set clear expectations, engage in regular assessments, and participate in mentorship education. Program design should take into account the stages of mentoring relationships and ensure that the evolving needs of undergraduate and graduate students are met as they shift to career stage–appropriate independence.


Department chairs should deliver professional development on effective mentorship to support mentors and mentees in understanding how successful mentoring relationships can be created, cultivated, and nurtured; addressing challenges such as those caused by biases and micro- and macroaggressions; encouraging self-reflection; and mastering critical skills over time.


Mentors should learn about and employ evidence-based mentorship tools and strategies through a process that includes exploring evidence-based mentorship resources, dedicating time for mentorship education, and participating in relationship-level, department-level, and institution-level mentoring accountability mechanisms.


Mentees should acquaint themselves with evidence-based mentorship tools and strategies, including compacts, individual development plans, mentor maps, and mentoring accountability mechanisms. When possible, mentees should take advantage of any mentee-focused mentorship education and resources and be aware of which faculty members in their program, department, or institution have participated in mentorship education and which faculty use evidence-based mentorship tools.

Recommendation 3: Establish and Use Structured Feedback Systems to Improve Mentorship at All Levels

Assessment and evaluation of mentorship are necessary to identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Evaluation through structured systems may reduce unintentional bias and protect mentees who are in inherently more vulnerable positions as students and trainees.


Institutional and departmental leadership should regularly and systematically review formal mentorship activities and programs to support development of mentorship skills and student success and well-being. Such reviews should involve different stakeholders groups, check for alignment with stated program goals and missions, ensure that practices for effective mentorship are incorporated throughout activities and programs, and work to create a culture of accountability.


Program leaders should establish and systematically review formal mentoring activities and programs and other structured feedback systems to make programmatic decisions such as who is allowed to serve as a mentor, when to intervene if relationships are not effective, and how to help mentors improve their skills over time using established methods and instruments for measuring mentorship effectiveness. Program leaders should regularly provide deans, department heads, and other program leaders with program metrics, including data on mentorship processes and outcomes.


Mentors and mentees should work with each other and their institutions to develop feedback systems to document, evaluate, and advance mentorship competencies over time using established methods and instruments for measuring mentorship effectiveness. They should also participate in institutional reviews of formal mentorship activities and programs to enhance mentor and mentee outcomes and inform periodic self-reflection.


Professional associations should regularly review and gather evidence on formal mentorship activities and programs that are designed to enhance students' success outside of their home institution. Such reviews should also check for alignment with stated program and association goals, missions, and accountability mechanisms and for widespread use of effective mentorship practices.

Recommendation 4: Recognize and Respond to Identities in Mentorship

All participants in the mentorship ecosystem should recognize that identities influence academic and career development and thus are relevant and significant for effective mentorship.


Institutional leadership should intentionally support mentorship initiatives that recognize, respond to, value, and build upon the power of diversity. Leaders should intentionally create cultures of inclusive excellence to improve the quality and relevance of the STEMM enterprise.


Mentors should learn about and make use of inclusive approaches to mentorship such as listening actively, working toward cultural responsiveness, moving beyond “colorblindness,” intentionally considering how culture-based dynamics like imposter syndrome can negatively influence mentoring relationships, and reflecting on how their biases and prejudices may affect mentees and mentoring relationships, specifically for mentorship of underrepresented mentees.


Mentees should reflect on and acknowledge the influence of their identities on their academic and career trajectory, including the potential for imposter syndrome to disrupt mentorship. Mentees should seek mentorship that is intentional in considering their individual lived experiences.


Professional associations should intentionally address sociodemographic factors in mentoring relationships, specifically for mentorship of underrepresented mentees. Professional associations should also intentionally create cultures of inclusive excellence to improve the quality and relevance of the STEMM enterprise.

Recommendation 5: Support Multiple Mentorship Structures


Institutional leadership should support policies, procedures, and other infrastructure that allow mentees to engage in mentoring relationships with multiple individuals within and outside of their home department, program, or institution, such as professional societies, external conferences, learning communities, and online networks, with the ultimate goal of providing more comprehensive mentorship support.


Mentors should provide opportunities and support for mentees in mentoring relationships with other individuals within and outside of their home department, program, or institution (such as professional societies, external conferences, learning communities, online networks) who can provide complementary or supplementary functions that enable mentees to progress and succeed.


Mentees should consider developing, as needed, a constellation of mentoring relationships with multiple individuals within and outside of their home department, program, or institution using tools designed for this purpose such as mentoring maps and individual development plans.


Professional associations should proactively facilitate the development of mentoring relationships among individuals from different programs or institutions, as needed, who can provide complementary or supplementary mentorship functions. This could include activities such as pairing first-time conference attendees (mentees) with returning conference attendees (mentors) to orient them to conference events and support their networking or establishing and supporting online communities for mentees to find and make supportive connections outside their own institutions and environments (e.g., academia).

Recommendation 6: Reward Effective Mentorship


Institutional leadership should reward and visibly recognize mentors for documented, effective, and inclusive mentorship in the same manner as effective teaching is recognized, including through annual awards. Consideration should be given to all forms of mentorship, including informal and formal relationships that occur beyond the research advisor or other academic advisor and the student. Leaders should also structure job recruitment, application, and selection procedures to make evident an applicant's commitment to and success with mentorship and ensure mentorship quality and potential are weighed in hiring decisions, possibly through the inclusion of mentoring statements in applications.


Department chairs, in consultation with institutional leadership, should use promotion, tenure, and performance appraisal practices to reward effective mentorship. Elements of a promotion or tenure package could include descriptions of approaches and resources used in mentoring, reflective statements of ways the candidate has worked to improve their mentoring over time, evidence of mentored scientists as coauthors on manuscripts and grants and their placement into positions, letters from program leaders and testimonies from students, institutional and national awards for mentorship, and process measures that assess mentoring relationship quality from the perspective of the mentee and the mentor.


Professional associations should provide visible recognition of effective mentorship through prominent rewards for documented, effective, and inclusive mentorship, such as certifications for completing substantive mentorship education, named awards for sustained contributions to mentorship, and noteworthy track records of effective mentorship supported with assessment data.

Recommendation 7: Mitigate Negative Mentorship Experiences

Mentorship education for both mentors and mentees can help to reduce or prevent negative mentoring experiences. However, negative mentoring experiences do and will occur, and direct steps should be taken to mitigate harm from such occurrences.


Institutional leadership should appoint and make visible one or more neutral third parties (e.g., ombudspersons, research integrity office) to serve as a point of contact to identify and address negative mentoring experiences. These individuals, offices, or committees should be selected based on their potential to engender a sense of trust and approachability among mentees and mentors. The appointed neutral third parties should also be prepared to carry out their role effectively by participating in professional development on mentorship, conflict management, and workplace laws and ethics.


Program leaders and department chairs should periodically review mentorship assessment results to identify and mitigate negative experiences. They should be open to the possibility of having to serve as a neutral third party to improve ineffective or negative mentoring experiences, and they should also be prepared to carry out their role effectively by participating in professional development on mentorship, conflict management, and workplace laws and ethics.


Mentors should recognize that negative mentoring experiences can occur even with well-intentioned mentors and mentorship practices and be open to addressing unintended negative mentoring experiences with a neutral third party. In addition, mentors should become familiar with and recommend resources, such as ombudspersons, who can help identify and address negative mentoring experiences.


Mentees should maintain relationships with a network of faculty outside of their primary advisor, research supervisor, or mentor, and when necessary, seek out an ombudsperson or other neutral third party who can serve as a resource to address negative mentoring experiences.

Recommendation 8: Recommendations for Funding Agencies that Support Mentorship

Funding agencies play a key role in shaping the values of institutions and the projects that scholars pursue. As such, funding agencies' role in encouraging and supporting effective mentorship practices is essential.


Funding agencies should encourage the integration of evidence-based mentorship education for mentors and mentees and assessments of mentorship into grant activities that involve undergraduate and graduate student research, education, and professional development to support the development of the next generation of talent in STEMM.


Funding agencies, when supporting STEMM student development, should require tools such as mentoring compacts and individual development plans to operationalize intentionality and promote shared understanding of the goals of mentoring relationships on sponsored projects.


Funding agencies should support the study of the process and impacts of mentorship and the development and validation of new or adapted measures for use in STEMM mentorship to comprehensively understand the relationship between mentorship processes and outcomes, as well as demographic disparities in student outcomes.


Funding agencies should support in-depth, cross-program evaluation and research to better understand the processes and outcomes of mentorship, particularly on the outcomes of diverse student populations.

Recommendation 9: Recommendations to Scholars of Mentorship

When the committee reviewed the literature on mentorship and mentoring relationships, it became apparent that more scholarship is needed on specific aspects of mentorship and mentoring relationships. Items 9.1–9.5 represent some of the areas that would benefit from additional scholarship and make contributions to advance the science of mentorship.


Scholars should conduct multidisciplinary research on mentorship in STEMM, including employing advanced multimethod approaches, using current technologies, and establishing standards for measurement to uncover the relational processes that drive effective mentorship. Scholars should particularly attend to the reciprocal and dynamic nature of mentoring patterns, processes, and outcomes in STEMM to advance theories of mentorship in STEMM.


Scholars should make greater use of study designs that allow for causal and longitudinal inferences, paying particular attention to the antecedents, processes, correlates, and outcomes within effective mentoring relationships in STEMM to determine the effects of mentorship on persistence and success in STEMM as well as on the STEMM enterprise.


Scholars should define and characterize negative mentoring experiences or ineffective mentorship in STEMM and investigate their prevalence and impacts, specifically addressing the possibility that negative mentoring experiences may disproportionately harm underrepresented students and compromise science and research itself.


Scholars should intentionally expand the knowledge base for populations that remain little studied in STEMM and account for how differing conditions and contexts of mentorship may differentially affect individuals with diverse sociocultural identities. Scholars should examine mentorship assets at the individual, department, and institutional levels to assist STEMM researchers and universities in creating targeted recruitment and retention programs for underrepresented and underserved populations.


Scholars should investigate how different aspects of mentor-mentee sociocultural similarity may help shape mentorship outcomes to elucidate the effectiveness of matching practices and processes in formal mentorship programs and provide greater access to quality mentoring.



This report refers to UR groups as including women of all racial/ethnic groups and individuals specifically identifying as Black, Latinx, and American Indian/Alaska Native. Where possible, the report specifies if the UR groups to which the text refers are Black, Latinx, or of American Indian/Alaska Native heritage.


Intentionality refers to a calculated and coordinated method of engagement to effectively meet the needs of a designated person or population within a given context.

Copyright 2019 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Bookshelf ID: NBK552779


  • PubReader
  • Print View
  • Cite this Page
  • PDF version of this title (3.1M)

In this Page

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...