Independent investigator incubator (I3): A comprehensive mentorship program to jumpstart productive research careers for junior faculty

John Paul Spence, Jennifer L. Buddenbaum, Paula J. Bice, Julie L. Welch, Aaron E. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Background: In the highly competitive environment of academic medicine, junior faculty investigators face high attrition rates due to challenges in finding effective mentorship, securing grant funding, and obtaining resources to support their career development and research productivity. The purpose of this study was to describe the centralized, cost-sharing design of the Independent Investigator Incubator (I3) program as a novel approach to junior faculty mentoring and to evaluate quantitative outcomes for program improvement. Methods: In September 2014, the I3 pilot program, a comprehensive mentorship program targeting junior faculty pursuing research careers, was launched. Participants included junior faculty during the crucial first three years of their research careers or during their transition from career development awards to more independent research. Following initial screening, the I3 mentees were paired with a senior faculty "super-mentor" with expertise in either basic science or clinical research. Mentees were provided with robust traditional one-on-one mentoring, targeted feedback from a super-mentor review committee, as well as biostatistician and grant writing support. To assess the effectiveness of the I3 program, we tracked outcome measures via baseline and 12-month mentee surveys. Data collected assessed program diversity, mentee self-assessments, evaluation of the mentoring relationship, scholarship and productivity metrics. Raw data were analyzed using a paired t-test in Excel (P < 0.05). Results: Results of the baseline mentee self-assessment survey found that the I3 mentees indicated common "perceive deficits" including navigating the organizational and institutional culture, clear direction in achieving promotion and tenure, among others. When baseline mentee survey responses were compared to 12-month responses, we identified strong "perceived growth" in categories, such as Research and Interpersonal Skills and Career Development Skills. Further, productivity metrics at 12-months revealed that roughly 80% of I3 mentees successfully published a manuscript(s). The I3 program has helped generate roughly $12.1 million dollars in investigator-initiated funding after two years in the program. Conclusion: The I3 program allows for shared costs between institutions and increased availability of successful subject matter experts. Study results imply that the I3 mentoring program provides transformative mentorship for junior faculty. Using our findings, we developed courses and an annual "snapshot" of mentee performance for mentors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number186
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 6 2018


  • Junior faculty
  • Mentoring
  • Professional development
  • Translational research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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