Guideline Seven | Balance direction

7. Balance your direction and self-direction by your researchers themselves


"As a research supervisor and mentor she/he has an incredible ability to find the perfect balance between: allowing the student to develop and explore their own ideas, research plans and projects; providing them with expert guidance, direction when needed; and most importantly providing the inspiration to achieve their best." 

"The scientific acumen to on the one hand encourage promising ideas and on the other recognise a "dead end', is one of the great mentoring skills." 

"Harriet is not a micro- manager; her approach has been to give students independence and to let them make their own mistakes as part of the learning process. At the same time, she has always been extremely approachable and has made finding time for students an absolute priority; when troubleshooting or direction was required, she was always available to give insightful advice." 
 
One of the great skills of good supervision is to get the right balance between allowing the student to develop and explore their own ideas, research plans and projects and providing them with expert guidance and direction when needed.  One of the worst deficiencies in a supervisor is to micromanage. They have thought up the experiment, written it up in their grant application and the students' job is to do the experiment. This can stifle the student and give them no chance to develop the critical problem solving skills students require to be a research scientist. Experiments don't always work and they have to be given the freedom to appreciate that the unexpected result may be the right one even though it does not fit with existing theories. Our role is to encourage and prompt students to follow their own ideas and judgement and to provide an environment where this is possible. 

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