Research experiences and mentoring practices in selected east asian graduate programs: Predictors of research productivity among doctoral students in molecular biology


  • We define top journals (TJ) as journals in the life sciences with impact factor of at least 4.00. Although a subjective cut-off level, we argue—on the basis of our quantitative and qualitative interviews and our focus-group discussion with biology professors in our research team and at the first three authors' own university—that this cut-off value reasonably demarcates top journals from non-top journals in the life sciences.

  • Given the scarcity of studies focusing on the socialization of doctoral science students to scientific life, the DMP and DRE items used in this study were generated from available studies, such as those of Delamont and Atkinson [12] and Ynalvez and Shrum [33]. Aside from these sources, we also created items from our own original qualitative interviews in 2004-2005 with n = 30 Filipino scientists in top Philippine research institutions. Those scientists pursued doctoral training in Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States. In those face-to-face qualitative interviews, we explicitly asked our respondents to share with us their experiences with and stories about their mentors, and their journey toward obtaining their doctoral degrees.

  • If respondent was based in Japan, then Japan = 1 and Singapore = 0. If respondent was based in Singapore, then Japan = 0 and Singapore = 1. If respondent was based in Taiwan, then Japan = 0 and Singapore = 0.

  • By mean-centering respondents' age, we are able to include a linear and a quadratic term for age in our regression models. The inclusion of these terms is consistent with the methodological literature and reflects the curvilinear relationship between age and the three measures of research productivity.


Although doctoral mentors recognize the benefits of providing quality advisement and close guidance, those of sharing project management responsibilities with mentees are still not well recognized. We observed that mentees, who have the opportunity to co-manage projects, generate more written output. Here we examine the link between research productivity, doctoral mentoring practices (DMP), and doctoral research experiences (DRE) of mentees in programs in the non-West. Inspired by previous findings that early career productivity is a strong predictor of later productivity, we examine the research productivity of 210 molecular biology doctoral students in selected programs in Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan. Using principal component (PC) analysis, we derive two sets of PCs: one set from 15 DMP and another set from 16 DRE items. We model research productivity using Poisson and negative-binomial regression models with these sets as predictors. Our findings suggest a need to re-think extant practices and to allocate resources toward professional career development in training future scientists. We contend that doctoral science training must not only be an occasion for future scientists to learn scientific and technical skills, but it must also be the opportunity to experience, to acquire, and to hone research management skills. © 2014 by The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 42(4):305–322, 2014.