Europlanet Mentorship Programme: Two Years After Launch 


Europlanet Mentorship Programme: Two Years After Launch 

Edita Stonkutė of Vilnius University (Lithuania) and Jen DeWitt, Evaluation Officer for Europlanet 2024 RI (UK), examine how mentoring can support the planetary community.  

Read article in the fully formatted PDF of the Europlanet Magazine.

Increasing diversity in science is an ongoing challenge, and the fields of geo- and planetary research are no exception. Evidence suggests that mentoring programmes have a role to play in encouraging individuals from a range of backgrounds to continue in STEM.1,2 One way in which mentoring can exert its effect is by supporting the development of a sense of ‘science identity’, through which people are being able to see themselves as belonging in science and are recognised by others as belonging.3,4 

The Europlanet Mentorship programme was established in 2020 with the aim of giving early career professionals in planetary science and related fields support to become collaborative and open-minded colleagues and leaders, and enabling them to pursue their chosen career paths.5 

Potential mentees and mentors can sign up and be connected via the Europlanet Mentorship Platform, which provides a range of tips and tools for a successful mentorship experience. Through the programme, early career scientists can develop expertise, ask questions and discuss career plans with more established members of the planetary community. The programme is flexible and can be arranged to suit the individual working environments of mentors and mentees. Mentees make initial contact with their assigned mentor via e-mail. The focus of the mentorship is agreed at the start, and could include support around developing research skills, writing CVs, or interview techniques, or writing for publication. 

“Overall, I found the conversation and discussion to be beneficial. Some of the topics we discussed have already made an impact in my daily schedule and habits and I’m looking forward to our next meeting.”

Mentee

Progress so far 

Following positive feedback on a pilot of ten matched pairs of mentors and mentees, which launched in August 2020, the programme has expanded. It now covers a wide geographical spread, with participants from more than 20 countries. To date, 42 pairs have been matched and several mentees are waiting for suitable mentors. Because we aim to find synergies between a mentor’s areas of strength and a mentee’s mentoring needs, it can take time to identify suitable matches. 

Feedback 

To continue to develop the programme, we are using a survey to gather feedback from mentors and mentees, and we are also following-up with participants informally through chats and e-mails. The feedback so far has been positive and points to the potential effectiveness of the programme in supporting the paths of early career researchers. For example, one mentor-mentee pair began to collaborate scientifically, and they have since published a paper together about meteoroid orbits. The same mentor is now working on questions related to fireballs with a second mentee. The impact of the mentorship is expanding further as the two mentees are also starting to collaborate and are planning to visit each other’s scientific communities in Romania and Brazil. Another mentee has been offered a postdoctoral fellowship at the European Space Agency (ESA), and credits advice from the mentor as being helpful in securing the position. 

“Mentoring is one of the possible ways available to us to encourage the next generation of researchers to blossom. Sharing our respective passions for science leads to a fruitful interaction for both parties. Let us all play our part and contribute to a better world.”

Mentor

Next steps 

Our next steps are to continue matching pairs and to use feedback to improve and grow the programme further. The success of the mentorship programme so far highlights the need for this support and the potential role it can play in developing the individuals within our community who will advance planetary science over the coming years. It also flags the important practical benefits of embedding mentorship within Europlanet and how it can contribute to the long-term sustainability of the research infrastructure. 

Issue 3 of Europlanet Magazine

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