NSF Supports Women in Science

The funding agency is taking strides to avoid losing parents from the scientific workforce.

Sep 27, 2011
Jef Akst

FLICKR, JOHN HOPE

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is introducing 10-year initiative to provide increased flexibility to scientists wanting to start families, the White House announced today. Among the changes, the agency's new policies will allow researchers to suspend their grants for up to a year to take leave for family reasons, including having or adopting a child. In addition, researchers will be able to apply for grant funds dedicated to paying technicians to maintain lab work during such leaves. The policy would also encourage increased use of "virtual" grant reviews that would allow researchers to do such work from home, and avoid traveling to the NSF headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

The NSF hopes that the new policies will support the reentry of scientists, and women in particular, to the workforce. "Too many women give up because of conflicts between their desire to start a family and their desire to ramp-up their careers," John Holdren, the president's science adviser and head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, told ScienceInsider.

The announcement came hand-in-hand with the disclosure of this year's  Presidential Early Career Awards winners, about 40 percent of whom are women.

Several businesses, academic, and professional organizations are also announcing similar efforts to keep new parents from leaving science, in conjunction with the NSF intiative.