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ORI Introduction to RCR: Chapter 7. Mentor and Trainee Responsibilities

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When mentors accept trainees, they assume responsibility for assuring that the persons under their supervision are appropriately and properly trained. This responsibility is particularly important in research since for the most part there are no other checks on the qualifications of new researchers. Researchers do not take licensing exams. They are judged primarily by the quality of their research, which should be best known to the person directly supervising their work, that is, to their mentor.
 
Proper supervision of a trainee takes time. In one way or another a mentor needs to:
  • assure proper instruction in research methods,
  • foster the intellectual development of the trainee,
  • impart an understanding of responsible research practices, and
  • routinely check to make sure the trainee develops into a responsible researcher.
Mentors do not need to check all aspects of a trainee’s work directly. In large laboratories, postdocs often supervise graduate students and laboratory technicians might teach specific laboratory skills. Training in the responsible use of animals is often done through an animal care program. However, the ultimate responsibility for training rests with the mentor.
 
Proper supervision and review play an important role in quality control. Trainees can make mistakes. Some have deliberately falsified or fabricated data. Mentors should review work done under their supervision carefully enough to assure that it is well done and accurate. This can be accomplished by:
  • reviewing laboratory notebooks and other compilations of data;
  • reading manuscripts prepared by trainees carefully to assure that they are accurate, well-reasoned, and give proper credit to others;
  • meeting with trainees on a regular basis to keep in touch with the work they are doing; and
  • encouraging trainees to present and discuss data at laboratory meetings.
ome of this responsibility can be delegated to others, but as with all other matters regarding training, the mentor should assume ultimate responsibility.