When funding postdoctoral research some funding agencies require proposals and reporting to include documents for mentorship and career development of these researchers. Both the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health provide distinct guidance for these documents; descriptions and links are provided on this page for convenience.
National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation (NSF) proposals that request funding to support postdoctoral researchers require a mentoring plan to further research skills and knowledge, and support career progression. The one-page Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan is evaluated as part of the merit review process under the NSF broader impacts merit review criterion, and any proposal supporting postdoctoral researchers that is lacking this document is returned without review.
A non-exhaustive list of mentoring activity examples from NSF includes:
- career counseling
- training in preparation of grant proposals, publications and presentations
- guidance on ways to improve teaching and mentoring skills
- guidance on how to effectively collaborate with researchers from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary areas
- training in responsible professional practices
Only one mentoring plan is submitted to NSF for the entire project – even for collaborative proposals with subawardees.
National Institutes of Health
Through a Guide Notice issued in August 2014, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has strongly encouraged the use of Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by a NIH award. NIH required institutions to report in Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPRs) submitted on/after October 1, 2014 their current practices documenting the use of IDPs to help manage the training of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
Some useful resources available for writing and tailoring a mentoring plan for a specific proposal, or preparing an individual develop plan, include:
- The American Association for the Advancement of Science provides an interactive career-planning tool to develop an individual development plan.
- The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) provides guidelines for postdoctoral fellows and their mentors to develop an individual development plan, and an interactive career-planning tool .
- The National Postdoctoral Association provides a toolkit to draft a mentoring plan.
- The Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy has provided recommendations on enhancing the postdoctoral experience relevant to mentoring and individual development plans (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2000.)