Membership in the Context of Interdisciplinary Geriatric Research

Lessons Learned from the RAND/Hartford Program for Building Interdisciplinary Geriatric Health Care Research Centers

Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, v. 60, no. 8, Aug. 2012, p. 1546-1555

Posted on RAND.org on August 01, 2012

by Donna J. Keyser, Zainab Abedin, Dana Schultz, Harold Alan Pincus

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In light of the growing trend toward formalized research mentorship for effectively transmitting the values, standards, and practices of science from one generation of researchers to the next, this article provides the results of an exploratory study. It reports on research mentorship in the context of interdisciplinary geriatric research based on experiences with the RAND/Hartford Program for Building Interdisciplinary Geriatric Research Centers. At the end of the 2-year funding period, staff from the RAND Coordinating Center conducted 60- to 90-minute open-ended telephone interviews with the co-directors of the seven centers. Questions focused on interdisciplinary mentorship activities, barriers to implementing these activities, and strategies for overcoming them, as well as a self-assessment tool with regard to programs, policies, and structures across five domains, developed to encourage research mentorship. In addition, the mentees at the centers were surveyed to assess their experiences with interdisciplinary mentoring and the center. According to the interviewees, some barriers to successful interdisciplinary mentoring included the mentor's lack of time, structural support, and the lack of a clear definition of interdisciplinary research. Most centers had formal policies in place for mentor identification and limited policies on mentor incentives. Mentees uniformly reported their relationships with their mentors as positive. More than 50% of mentees reported having a primary mentor from within their discipline and had more contact with their primary mentor than their secondary mentors. Further research is needed to understand the complexity of institutional levers that emerging programs might employ to encourage and support research mentorship.

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