Guideline Thirteen | Enhance criticism

13. Enhance the critical abilities of your mentees early on

"Catherine has focused on equipping people with the skills to be fully functioning members of the scientific community, able to prepare grant applications, review manuscripts, speak at conferences and engage with scientific administrators in a constructive manner. Such a holistic approach to running a scientific group will ultimately bring enormous benefit to the group’s alumni, giving them all the skills necessary to carve out their own niches in the academic world."
 
"To the uninitiated, the scientific literature is a baffling mass of conflicting ideas and results, accepted wisdom and false assumptions.  The mentor can help by alerting the new student to papers that he/she considers of particular interest, and by going over the most pertinent ones with the student in some detail. It also helps greatly for the laboratory or department to establish a ‘journal club’ where students regularly take turns dissecting one or two relevant current papers and their background, with input from other students and faculty members. Participating in such discussions can greatly sharpen the student’s critical acumen and judgement."
 
"Simon didn’t only limit his  mentoring to experimental areas; he attempted to condition his students and post-docs for all aspects of a scientific career. For example he encouraged us to be involved during the preparation of grant applications and in the reviewing of submitted articles, tasks that are essential for career advancement in science."

From the beginning of their candidature we should be building on the skills of scientific criticism we hope they have picked up in their honours year. This should continue, with them taking an increasingly important role in the critique. A journal club is one strategy, students should not only participate in the critique of key papers but they should regularly take the lead by selecting, reviewing and critiquing papers themselves.   Students should be involved from the beginning in the team's grant applications. They should also be put in the position of interviewers in mock interviews. They should take the position of journal referee of papers submitted from the group and be encouraged to make a decision re acceptance, resubmission or rejection. The actual reviews that come back then provide the basic for a very rich discussion. In summary, we should create a situation where our students practice all the things we do that make us a scientist. 

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