Mentoring students in science soft skills

Yesterday I mentioned how European and North American science are joined at the hip. To walk around the Krasnow Institute, this is clear. Our students and faculty are truly international. And yes, that includes the rest of the world besides the EU, Canada and the United States. But I’d like to focus on one lacuna in how we handle advanced scientific training, both here and abroad:

Part and parcel of doctoral education here at Mason is training in the “soft skills” necessary to professionally succeed in science as it’s practiced here in the US. This includes grantsmanship aimed at US funding agencies such as NSF or the NIH.  Crucially, we don’t, in general offer such soft skills for the European system (e.g. Framework 7).

By the same token, in my visits to Europe, I’ve noticed a complementary absence of such soft skill training for US sponsored research sources.

None of this would make much of a difference except for the fact that both here and in Europe, the trainee pool includes doctoral students and postdocs from everywhere. Hence, the New Yorker, I met briefly on one of my recent trips to Europe, will have a difficult time applying for her first NIH RO1 if she returns to the US. And our European trainees, while adept at preparing specific aims, intellectual merit and broader impacts (hallmarks of US NIH and NSF grant applications), will be in the dark as far as applying for EU support from Brussels.

This problem is even more acute for students from places other than the EU and North America. Simply put, we must train our students to succeed as scientists where ever they chose to put down roots.