Mentoring: A Guide for Drug Abuse Researchers

"NIDA offers a strategic set of funding mechanisms to support the development of research scientists through various stages of their careers. These awards are designed to ensure that scientists of the very highest caliber will be available in adequate numbers and in the appropriate research areas and fields to meet the Nation's drug abuse and addiction needs."
– Nora D. Volkow, M.D., NIDA Director

Quality mentoring, good planning, and hard work, along with a favorable environment, are some of the elements that combine to create a successful career. This guide focuses on the importance of quality mentorship and offers suggestions for creating a successful mentor-mentee relationship. The chapters that follow include information that places mentoring in the broader context of research training, data from surveys with mentees, guidance on good mentoring practices, discussion of some challenges to mentoring, and a listing of mentoring resources that can be accessed via the Internet. "How To" boxes can be found throughout the guide, which provide quick access to ideas and checklists for mentors and mentees.

This guide is intended to enhance the career development of research scientists who wish to study drug abuse, by providing insights for both mentors and mentees. The guide is designed to inform scientists from all of the multiple disciplines that study drug abuse. It focuses on mentoring approaches that are based on practices and recommendations from experienced senior scientists in drug abuse research and also is informed by input from junior researchers. The guide was developed over several years with the help of both mentors and mentees. Work began at a workshop of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) in 2003, continued at a career development seminar of CPDD in 2005, and culminated at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Research Training Institute in 2006.

The guide includes information and resources intended for both mentors and mentees. It is hoped that providing information within a single guide to mentors and mentees about their roles will help each to better understand the expected role of the other. We hope that the guide will serve as a springboard for discussions between mentors and mentees throughout their careers. Terms such as mentee, trainee, student, fellow, and postdoctoral researcher (postdoc) are used throughout the guide to describe the individuals receiving guidance as they embark on careers as independent scientists.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their contributions to this guide: Linda Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H., Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine; Patrick Flynn, Ph.D., Institute of Behavioral Research, Texas Christian University; Peter Friedmann, M.D., M.P.H., Division of General Internal Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital; and Tracy Harachi, Ph.D., Social Development Research Group, University of Washington.

Guidance and technical editing were provided by Kathy Etz, Ph.D., and Jeff Schulden, M.D., of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.