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Junior researchers get help with demanding applications

Talented junior researchers who apply for large external grants from e.g. ERC and the Innovation Fund Denmark, will in future be matched with an experienced associate professor or professor from Health's new mentor corps. The faculty management team has decided to utilise mentors to help provide the projects with research quality and stature.


Health is currently putting together a gleaming new team of mentors comprising researchers who are able to attract major grants and who also wish to help more junior – but talented – colleagues apply to large foundations such as the ERC and others under Horizon 2020, as well as the Innovation Fund Denmark.  

The idea for a mentor corps arises from the faculty's special ERC initiative and the associated help package, which in the longer term intends to change the way in which all ‘major grants' are viewed, so that these are also within reach of junior researchers, if they play their cards right.

Experience that you do not yet have

"The idea of a mentor corps is to match talented junior researchers who are currently working on major applications with selected experienced associate professors or professors who wish to help improve and qualify other researchers' research projects. This can be in terms of its scope or weight or other aspects, depending on the project's weakest link," says Ole Steen Nielsen, who is vice-dean for research. He explains that in practice, the departments will be where mentors and mentees are matched:

"The idea is that we should establish sparring partners both internally and across departments, but the goal each time is for the junior researcher to have a close, binding contact with a person who has some experience that they do not yet have. And it must be a person who, by virtue of age and network, has a different meta-perspective on research than the junior researcher has," says Ole Steen Nielsen.

A dynamic list

So far, 23 professors and experienced associate professors have been added to the faculty's list of mentors. Some of them will come into play as early as next month, when the initial fifteen Health researchers, both early in their careers and more experienced, will each be assigned an individual mentor as part of Health's and the Research Support Office’s special ERC development programme.

"The ERC programme was the specific reason why we put together the mentor corps at Health, but it’s certainly our intention for the scheme to benefit others and not ‘only’ ERC applicants," says Ole Steen Nielsen. He also emphasises that the list of mentors is dynamic and can naturally branch out as new ideas and topics crop up which lack input from a critical and constructive expert.

"In addition, we’re in the process of appointing Skou professors, and some of them will be obvious candidates for the new mentor corps," he adds.

The work is its own reward

The new mentors share a willingness to work for free and to give something back to the faculty where they have carved out a career. Work as a mentor is unpaid – and that is how it should be according to Ole Steen Nielsen.

"The project should develop as a result of close personal contact between mentor and mentee, and not because of an hourly payment. From AU's cross-university mentor programme Empower Talent!, we know that mentorship is meaningful in itself. One thing that characterises Empower Talent!, which is also unpaid, is that all participants in the first group stated that they would not hesitate to recommend the scheme to their colleagues," says Ole Steen Nielsen.

Vice-dean for Research Ole Steen Nielsen
Email: osn@au.dk
Mobile: (+45) 2476 5093