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.

Summer’s Over

If you are an administrator at  George Mason. I’m back in DC,  ready to focus on the new academic year. This is a particularly important one for Mason–we’re choosing a new President.

For the Institute, this year will as much about new international collaborations, as it is about our new faculty members and research space. But we’ll also be carefully watching the US science funding agencies as they deal with their own challenges.

The Internationalization of Krasnow

From my first days as director, I have always been struck by how our Institute was internationally incredibly diverse. This has continued to the present, one can’t walk the hallways without hearing several languages going on at the same time (not including the constant Java and C++).

At the same time, particularly since we began the Decade of the Mind initiative in 2007, the Institute itself has been reaching overseas. Our faculty have recently visited East Africa, Moldova, Singapore and, as I write these words, we have a critical mass in Paris.

In less than a month, I’ll visit Berlin for the second time in two years and we just recently hosted a scientist from Indonesia.

This both reflects, the very real internationalization of “advanced studies” and, more importantly, a changed outlook: while US research universities (including Mason) remain superb, there is an entire global generation that is coming of age and they are highly literate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields–and hence the potential for growing new gardens of collaborations.

In the next five years, I hope that we can do something substantive along these lines both in Asia and Europe, combining both research and education.

Decade of the Mind goes international

Manfred Spitzer at the University of Ulm issues a clarion call for the internationalization of the Decade of the Mind project in the on-line journal Philosophy, Ethics and Humanities in Medicine.

Money quote:

Emphatically, the Decade of the Mind must be a global initiative, and certainly not merely a USA initiative concerning national (USA) science and medicine, the national (USA) economy, and national (USA) security and well-being. Just as global warming affects all of us and needs to be studied and dealt with on a global scale, the mind is something that should be studied from all angles of the globe and within all cultural backgrounds and contexts. Let’s not waste time and let’s ALL get started! All of humankind!