NSF Develops Family Friendly Policies for Scientists

October 18, 2011

by Paula Skedsvold

The National Science Foundation, with the support of the White House, announced a series of new policies, to support scientists who struggle with balancing parenthood and research careers. Although the policies include both men and women, the administration has expressed its interest in raising the percentage of women in tenure-track faculty positions in the STEM fields, since many leave the workforce to care for their children.  According to a White House press release, women currently earn 41% of PhD’s in STEM fields, but account for only 28% of STEM tenure-track faculty.

The new policies will:

  • Allow postponement for one year of grants because of childbirth or adoption;
  • Allow grant suspension for parental leave;
  • Provide supplementary funds to cover the cost of hiring research technicians to maintain laboratories when grant recipients are on parental leave;
  • Permit those serving on peer-review panels to meet with their colleagues virtually, rather than in person; and
  • Fund more research on the effectiveness of policies that are designed to keep women in the science pipeline.

NSF hopes that these policies will inspire similar efforts on the part of universities to revise their own policies since both will be needed. Subra Suresh, Director of the National Science Foundation, stated that most of the changes were policy-oriented and would not require new money. NSF will revise its program solicitations to promote these policies.

White House Press Release »

NSF Director's Comments »

NSF’s brochure on the new policies »