A global network of researchers

Mentor Cohort 2020

The AuthorAID online mentoring platform has been active since 2014. During this time over 1,000 mentoring relationships have been established between researchers from all over the world, with over 500 ‘tasks’ reported as completed, including papers published, grants and scholarship applications submitted, and some into longer-term mentoring relationships and collaborations.   

However, virtual mentoring can also be challenging, with many mentors and mentees reporting difficulties with communication, cultural differences, non-responsiveness, and differences in aims and expectations of what academic mentoring means. 

With this in mind, the 2020 mentoring cohort was developed in partnership with the AuthorAID Steward group. This small pilot aimed to improve our understanding of virtual mentoring, identifying the characteristics or ‘ingredients’ of a successful mentoring relationship, and also exploring the success and feasibility of manually matching mentors and mentees.  

You can download and read the full report here.

The ten selected mentoring pairs represented 13 countries: Cameroon, Egypt, Japan, Poland, Nigeria, United States, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and Uganda. Exact gender parity was almost achieved for both the mentors and mentees; with 5/10 mentors being women and 6/10 mentees.

After the full programme, we asked participants to complete an anonymous survey and also compose a brief final report (submitted individually, but in conversation with their mentor or mentee). Overall, 57% of respondents to the survey had achieved all of their milestone objectives, and others reported being in the process of finishing up. It is worth noting that several pairs were unable to achieve or needed to amend certain objectives due to external factors, as explored further below. For example, due to delays in university approval processes and PhD timelines. Overall, 86% of mentees who responded to the survey agreed that the programme had equipped them with additional skills and understanding.

Unfortunately, a further mentoring pair lost contact during the latter stages of the programme. The mentee informed AuthorAID that they could not reach their mentor, and there was no response to AuthorAID’s inquiries to the mentor either. Overall, this means that 7 pairs completed the programme.

All participants stated that the programme met their expectations, and 86% reported that the programme suited their needs.



How helpful mentees found the programme
(scale of 1 to 5)


How rewarding mentors found the programme

(scale of 1 to 5)


Reported quality of matches
(from very good to bad)

Good to very good: 90%
Neither good nor bad: 9%

Support and guidance from the AuthorAID team (from extremely helpful to not at all helpful)

Extremely to very helpful: 81%
Somewhat helpful: 18%


Lessons Learned:

  • In future cohorts, the team has reflected that we could consider opening the ‘call’ only to certain thematic areas or first identifying mentees and then opening a ‘call’ for mentors in corresponding fields. 
  • It would be beneficial to add a check to the initial screening process for mentors (or in the rubric) to ensure that they have not published in poor quality or disreputable journals (NB: this was not an issue that was identified for the mentors who were selected for the programme)
  • One survey respondent suggested that seeking further confirmation about the quality of a match before introducing a mentoring pair would be valuable: “There is no particular factor that is most important, I think it is very individual and so many factors should be taken into consideration. The opinion of the mentee should be sought before such matches are made.”
  • 86% of respondents to the final survey would have liked additional opportunities to meet other mentoring pairs on the programme. It is suggested that this could take the form of an “interaction session before commencing the programme” or “a live meeting at each milestone, to keep momentum.”
  • Equipping mentors and mentees with general advice or resources on how to make the most of their mentoring partnership was also requested: “It would be nice to have a training session on how to benefit from mentorship for the mentees, and one on how to mentor for the mentors.”

The length of the programme, and when it is scheduled within the year, is also important to consider. Several pairs anecdotally reported that there was a loss of momentum at the end of the calendar year, as a result of the festive period and examinations at universities. Further, one survey respondent suggested that “…it might be worthwhile to consider a short[er] duration of mentorship as well. At the onset, the experience was amazing but towards the end, communication with my mentor was less frequent and at some point, I felt like I had learnt what was most important and what was left was the application of the concepts which I had learnt…Such shorter duration mentorship agreements would also give me the opportunity to work with several renowned scientists within a frame of time and learn so much more. In a nutshell, I would keep the mentorship relationship short and sweet.”