PhD supervisors: invest more time

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A supervisor risks stoking a graduate student's “supervisor phobia” if he or she fails to invest the time and energy necessary to help them fulfil their potential (see E. Diamandis Nature 544, 129; 2017). Students flounder without structure, clear expectations, encouragement, accountability and guidance. This can give rise to mental-health issues, causing them to distance themselves from supervisors (see, for example, K. Levecque et al. Res. Policy 46, 868879; 2017).

Meet with your students at least twice every month. Ask about their projects, what they are proud of, what they have found more difficult than anticipated, and what roadblocks are in their way. Enquire about how they want to develop as scientists, what other types of mentor they would like to connect with and what they do when they are not in the lab. Decide on a plan that enables them to receive feedback between meetings. Help them to set specific research and professional goals.

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  1. Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA.

    • David A. McDonald

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  1. Report this comment #69841

    Zhenhua Zhang said:

    Peer review: Avoid pseudo review

    The publication contributes often form the basis for research funding and career advancement. Due to the lack of valuable peer review, many researchers publish papers blindly in predatory journals which seriously threatens the quality of scholarship (Predatory journals recruit fake editor; doi:10.1038/543481a; Nature 543, 481-483; 2017; On the other hand, in order to publish articles in non-predatory high-level journals, some authors who want to avoid the real peer review often recommend their own acquaintances because of the existence of reviewers recommended by authors. Some other authors even use the real names of the reviewers in the process of recommending reviewers, but impersonate the reviewer's e-mail address, which makes the editor think that the article is sent to the real reviewer (

    In response to this situation, the review system should be able to get the Reviewer Locator Results from Google or Web of Science. The review system should also be able to verify the information of the recommended expert online, identify the authenticity of the expert, and whether the author has a collaborative relationship with the recommended expert. By reviewing the recommended reviewers, the review system should verify whether the authors recommend peer-related experts directly related to the literature, and whether the authors are willing to accept peer-to-peer evaluations of their own research results.

    Of course, journals can also be based on specific circumstances, to cancel the process of reviewers recommended by authors. BioMed Central (BMC) retracted 43 manus cripts including 41 Chinese authors' in 2015, which was due to the undue influence and harm of the peer review process. Now, BMC has canceled the process of author's advice on the recommendation of reviewers ( ).

    In addition, there is a third-party agency that provides details of the counterfeiting of potential peer reviewers for these above papers. The phenomenon has attracted wide attention that the academic papers are written, submitted or reviewed by the third-party agencies. Academic journals should make it clear to authors that it is forbidden to cooperate with the third-party agency to do these counterfeiting behaviors (

  2. Report this comment #70185

    HEPING LI said:

    PhD supervisors: A designable guidance (By He-Ping Li, Department of Engineering Physics, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, P. R. China;
    A non-proper guidance of a supervisor would have great risks that results in a growing ?supervisor phobia? of his/her graduate students due to his/her failure to find out the interests and potential of the students, or an un-appropriate way to discuss with the students during their research (E. Diamandis, Nature 544, 129; 2017).
    In my opinion, as supervisors, a ?designable? guidance for different students is necessary. On one hand, the supervisor should first establish a good group academic atmosphere to let every graduate student in his/her group know that the scientific thinking method and the rigorous scientific attitude are the two necessary aspects for becoming an excellent researcher. On the other hand, the supervisors should recognize that each student has his/her own unique potential, for example, some students are good at theoretical analysis, while others always have good ideas on experiments; some students are interested in theoretical studies, while others like applications. So, the supervisors should design different projects to fulfil the unique potential of each student; especially encourage them to obtain the first good result to be published in a journal or to be filed as a patent as early as possible, e.g., in the second year of their PhD program. This would help the students to establish their strong self-confidence when they are start out in research. In my opinion, this is the third key point for the students, because this ?strong self-confidence? would become an inner strength to help them overcome difficulties in their future research. This personalized guidance is the supervisor?s ?artistic design? for each student based on the enough time, energy and intellective investment of the supervisors during his whole guidance to each student.

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