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Introducing the BSI Mentoring Programme

The BSI is launching a pilot mentoring scheme this year, which will provide additional support for aspiring immunologists across the UK.

Our 2015 membership survey showed that members wanted more career support, and thus, we are launching a range of new initiatives in the coming months. Due to the need amongst the scientific community, one of our first initiatives is a mentoring scheme. As an organisation with a diverse membership in terms of career level, professional experiences and geographic locations, we believe this is an effective way for us to support professional development of members, going hand in hand with our goal to support and develop the next generation of world leading immunologists. This will be the first time the BSI has run such a scheme and, if successful, we hope to expand it in future years.

But what is mentoring?

For our purpose, we see mentoring as a professional relationship between an experienced person (the mentor) who supports someone else (the mentee) to develop and enhance their career and personal growth. The mentor doesn’t provide opportunities directly, rather it’s about a two-way relationship where the mentor acts as a sounding board who signposts and shares experiences where relevant.

While many institutes and other learned societies provide mentoring, we think there is an unmet need for immunologists, particularly in terms of having the opportunity to access a mentor from another institution. In our education survey, 40% of early career researchers told us they would like the BSI to provide them with mentoring.

What are we doing?

The BSI is launching a pilot mentoring scheme to provide mentors for 10–15 early career researchers to support them to make good career decisions and provide independent support and advice. Mentors will be members of the Society who are PIs, lecturers, or senior scientists, in post for 5 years or more. We will pair up mentors and mentees based on an overlap of needs and expertise. Pairings will always be between individuals from different institutes as we feel impartiality is important in the mentoring relationship.

Following pairing, we will invite mentors and mentees to attend a session at the BSI Congress on 4 December in Brighton. Following this, we propose that subsequent communication will be a mixture of email and telephone conversations. We hope the mentor/mentee relationships will be maintained for a 12-month period for the duration of the trial. The frequency of contact between mentees and mentors will depend on each pairing; however, the number of minimum and maximum interactions will be established during the initial training session. We will evaluate the impact of the scheme on both mentees and mentors throughout and at the end of the pilot. During the pilot phase, only UK-based immunologists can apply as both mentors and mentees, and we ask that they are available to attend the training session in person in Brighton on Monday 4 December.

How can you get involved?

Become a mentor: Are you in a position to offer insight and advice on issues such as career planning, networking, developing collaborations, leadership and managing work/life balance? To make the pilot a success, we need as many potential mentors as possible to best match with prospective mentees. If you are a UK-based PI, lecturer or senior scientist (industry or academia) who has been in post for 5 years or more, then please sign up.  Full details of how to apply are available on our website.

Become a mentee: The pilot scheme is open to early career researchers who are in their first postdoctoral position (or equivalent if in industry). For the purpose of the pilot, mentees should hold an aspiration of a research or teaching career within industry or academia at the time they embark on the scheme. This is due to the area of expertise we expect from our mentors. This pilot scheme is not open to clinicians within the NHS, who have access to the Academy of Medical Sciences mentoring programme. Applications for mentees to be part of the pilot will open later this year – check our website for more details.

Glyn Jones

Education & Career Officer,  British Society for Immunology

To find out more about the BSI’s mentoring scheme, please contact Glyn at g.jones@immunology.org.