STEMskiller: Skill Set Map for Mentors of Early Career Researchers


Academic endeavor


Science is an endeavor that spans cultures and contexts[1], and which can often not be understood without—as noted in the overview to ETH Zurich’s “Science in Perspective” program—these “historical, moral, epistemological, legal, economic and political contexts.”[2] Briefly defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Among the activities often identified as characteristic of science are systematic observation and experimentation, inductive and deductive reasoning, and the formation and testing of hypotheses and theories. How these are carried out in detail can vary greatly, but characteristics like these have been looked to as a way of demarcating scientific activity from non-science, where only enterprises which employ some canonical form of scientific method or methods should be considered science.[3]

In terms of Early Career Researchers, STEM mentors should, in addition to local contextual standards, ensure mentees are able to:

  • Engage in scientifically oriented questions
  • Give priority to evidence in responding to questions
  • Formulate explanations from evidence
  • Connect explanations to scientific knowledge
  • Communicate and justify explanations.[4]

Research: The OECD’s Frascati Manual (2019) defines research & experimental development (R&D) as:

creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge—including knowledge of humankind, culture and society—and to devise new applications of available knowledge… A set of common features identifies R&D activities, even if these are carried out by different performers. R&D activities may be aimed at achieving either specific or general objectives. R&D is always aimed at new findings, based on original concepts (and their interpretation) or hypotheses. It is largely uncertain about its final outcome (or at least about the quantity of time and resources needed to achieve it), it is planned for and budgeted (even when carried out by individuals), and it is aimed at producing results that could be either freely transferred or traded in a marketplace. For an activity to be an R&D activity, it must satisfy five core criteria.

The activity must be:

  • novel
  • creative
  • uncertain
  • systematic
  • transferable and/or reproducible.

All five criteria are to be met, at least in principle, every time an R&D activity is undertaken whether on a continuous or occasional basis....The term R&D covers three types of activity: basic research, applied research and experimental development.

Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view. Applied research is original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific, practical aim or objective. Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience and producing additional knowledge, which is directed to producing new products or processes or to improving existing products or processes (pp. 44-45).[5]

[1] Wikipedia (2020). Science.

[2] ETH Zurich. (2020). Science in Perspective.

[3] Andersen, H. & Hepburn, B. (Summer 2016 Edition). Scientific Method. In E.N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. See also Hansson, S.O. (Summer 2017 Edition). Science and Pseudo-Science. In E.N. Zalta (Ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

[4] National Research Council. (2002). Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards, p. 29. Summary table: / Full document at:

[5] OECD. (2015). Frascati Manual 2015.

Useful resources on Academic endeavor:

National Research Council. (1996). National Science Education Standards.

While US-centered, these concepts are applicable to other contexts (local, national) if needed. Includes principles and definitions, teaching standards, standards for professional development for teachers of science, assessment in science education, science content standards, and science education system standards. The standards, overall:

…present a vision of a scientifically literate populace. They outline what students need to know, understand, and be able to do to be scientifically literate at different grade levels. They describe an educational system in which all students demonstrate high levels of performance, in which teachers are empowered to make the decisions essential for effective learning, in which interlocking communities of teachers and students are focused on learning science, and in which supportive educational programs and systems nurture achievement. The Standards point toward a future that is challenging but attainable—which is why they are written in the present tense (p. 2).

National Research Council. (2002). Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards.

While geared towards K-12 educators in the US, this book includes content useful for STEM mentors and early career researchers anywhere wishing to improve their teaching skills in terms of building “inquiry” into the classroom. Includes inquiry in science and the classroom, inquiry in the national science education standards, classroom assessment and inquiry, preparing teachers for inquiry-based teaching, making the case for inquiry, frequently asked questions about inquiry, supporting inquiry-based teaching and learning, and three appendices including selecting instructional materials and resources for teaching science through inquiry (i.e., additional reading materials on this topic: web sites, books, journals, resource guides, instructional materials, and video collections).

OECD. (2015). Frascati Manual 2015.

The “Concepts and definitions for identifying R&D” chapter not only provides the concise definition of R&D cited above, it provides more in-depth definitions that can fill gaps in knowledge for early career researchers, including definitions of: novel findings; original, not obvious, concepts and hypotheses; final outcome uncertainty; systematic performance; transferrable/reproducible results; basic research; applied research; and experimental research). Provides a chart (p. 49) of questions used to identify R&D projects, and (starting on p. 53) examples of R&D in different fields which could be used by mentors to help mentees understand what constitutes original R&D in their/related fields.

Wikipedia. (2020). Research.

This Wikipedia entry provides a general overview of the concept of “research” that mentors could assign to beginning early career researchers who have not yet considered the topic as a conceptual “whole” beyond the constraints of a particular discipline.  

Tags: All IPS; all PSR; all IAL; CompQ

Peer Review: None

Table of contents:

4.1. Academic endeavor


Author: Stephanie Krueger

Peer Reviewer(s): None

Last Updated: October 28, 2021


Editor: Stephanie Krueger Last modified: 28.10. 2021 13:10