IT Innovation Contest

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A Proposal to Develop a Web-Based Mobile Phone Tool to Facilitate Tracking and Communications Related to Research Mentorship

Proposal Status: 

Impact on UCSF and Conduct of Research: Mentorship is an essential component of research and career development for both faculty and trainees. Inadequate mentee oversight on the one hand, and insufficient mentor recognition on the other, can impact team efficiency, research success, trainee development, usefulness to the team, and matriculation to research careers, and faculty satisfaction, retention, and productivity. Consequently, creating efficient and effective systems to monitor and support mentorship will improve the conduct of research.

Two UCSF-wide needs drive this proposal:

  • Programs that host research training and career development must attempt to assess the degree and impact of mentoring to inform program improvements and track faculty time.

  • UCSF is increasingly committed to the acknowledgment of mentorship as service and a form of teaching to be included in faculty advancement review. The UCSF schools are currently trying to devise mechanisms to collect data and assign value but no universal, efficient, and easy-to-use method now exists.  Since existing methods are not developed for use across the university, we are missing an opportunity to collect comparable data in order to:

    a) create standard units for inclusion in faculty advancement and grant reporting
    b) enable program evaluation
    c) inform the creation of mentor resources and development for specific training programs or career stages

Description: We propose to complete phase 1 of a 2 phase project that would maximize the efficiency and standardize the above data collection: the creation of a mobile-optimized web platform (a mobile 'app'-like program) that would allow mentors and mentees to capture key elements of their encounter via use of a smart-phone. The mobile-optimized web tool would:

  1. allow mentor and/or mentee to quickly capture via pick lists, etc., in consistent units

    • time spent during mentoring sessions
    • goals and topics in lists relevant to UCSF as a whole but also customizable by department or training program
    • action items

  2.  facilitate communication related to the mentoring session or next steps. Use of the tool could have the added benefit of influencing how users perceive and use the mentorship encounter.


  1. a prototype by October as a means to a campus-wide needs assessment for a more functional phase two mobile app if more partners and money are identified
  2. an implementation plan and collaborators who can operationalize the prototype by October
  3. a report on utility to mentors, mentees, training program assessment (including CTSI training programs), and school leadership based on usage eight months out

Team Members and Estimated Time:

The members of this team devote substantial time each week to issues closely related to this project.  The estimates below indicate the average time devoted to prototype development.

  • Alicia Fernandez (2 hrs/week), PI and Director of an NIH-funded UCSF-wide research training program that promotes research careers for UCSF members of health disparities populations
  • Louise Aronson (4 hrs/week), Director of the UCSF-wide research training program, Pathways to Discovery, which hosts mentored projects for learners at the professional, residency, and graduate levels
  • Renee Courey (4 hours/week), Coordinator of Pathways, project manager responsible for delivery and coordination of team members
  • Richard Trott (1-2 hours/week), Director of Academic Information Systems, UCSF Library to consult on sustainability, data storage, and the design of the web tool to ensure that the web tool generates data relevant to the design of a mobile app
  • Christian Burke (1-2 hours/week), Assistant Director, Technology Enhanced Learning, UCSF to consult on technology best practices, prototyping, design and usability in teaching and learning
  • Jeanette Brown (as needed), Director of the UCSF CTSI Comprehensive Mentoring Program, to consult on resources and mentor development

With the participation and support of other research mentorship and information technology leadership:

  • Mitch Feldman, Associate Vice Provost, Academic Affairs and Director, UCSF Faculty Mentoring Program, Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
  • Helen Loeser, Director of the Academy of Medical Educators, prior Dean of Curricular Affairs for the School of Medicine
  • Karen Butter, UCSF University Librarian and Assistant Vice Chancellor

The leadership positions of the collaborators will facilitate launch of the prototype by research mentors with mentees at all levels and across UCSF.  We are seeking partners among research training directors in the Schools of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Dentistry to ensure UCSF-wide development and testing.


Although the benefits of mobile are quick and easy access, entering lengthy feedback can be a challenge, and may promote shorter, less helpful feedback as a result. There is an existing evaluation tool (Evalue) that does have its shortcomings however would be able to handle the data collection and reporting. One drawback is that to my knowledge there is no mobile optimized access for input.

Excellent proposal to include a broad range of individuals to work on this. I do think a table format or pick list would be useful and longer comments, minutes, CDP or IDP could be included elsewhere but it should be noted if and when they were done. It also can serve as a means to document mentoring meetings are occurring and how often. This will be a very nice adjunct to the electronic mentor evaluation that is being developed.

Bethany Simmons had a proposal for using accountability tools to support lab management in proposal ( The kind of software she suggests (e.g. was certainly new to me, and might be worth investigating further, to see if there are any concepts applicable to this project.

Thanks Enrique, Jeanette and Arnivan, for the suggestions and advice. It does sound like we should concentrate on the most urgent need -- fast and easy documentation that the encounter occurred. Good idea, Jeanette, to document that a communication or note occurred (via a quick checkbox) rather than to slow the process down and undermine usability for tracking purposes. Arnivan -- I'll look into the software. We need this solution and plan to go forward. I'll do some research and let you know what we come up with. Thanks everyone!

Another thought is that this will serve all faculty- whether they do research or not. Would be helpful for "Career Mentors" as well. Using the mentor definitions at would be helpful. The definitions were developed collaboratively with Mitch Feldman, Associate Vice Provost, Academic Affairs and Director, UCSF Faculty Mentoring Program, Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and his input will be essential. Glad he is on the team!

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