[visionlist] Family Fellowships

Ione Fine ifine at usc.edu
Sun Nov 5 01:11:03 GMT 2006

Dear Fellow Scientists, 


A proposal has recently been submitted asking the NIH to fund merit based
family fellowships for maternity and paternity benefit. The proposal is


If you support this idea please take 1 minute:


1) Go to: http://familyfellowships.wikispaces.com/home. 

2) Click on the discussion tab at the top of the page. 

3) Add a comment, or just add your name in support.


Also, PLEASE pass this email on to other colleagues who might support this


Many thanks!








Initiative for "family fellowships"

(Submitted 10/30/2006 in response to NIH request for information

Obstacle/Opportunity/Need/Challenge statement

Many female scientists choose to have children in their late twenties and
early thirties: the postdoctoral stage of their careers. At this career
stage the opportunity to take extended maternity leave is extremely limited
in most university institutions. Consequently, a large number of women
reluctantly leave academia at this point in their careers.
"Family fellowships" would offer up to 12 months of financial support for
each child. These fellowships should be available to both men and women, and
be based on academic merit. Fellowships could be used for either a 12 month
leave of absence or be used to subsidize part time work for up to 5 years.
These grants will retain highly trained researchers in the academic
environment during a period of time where juggling career, family and
financial stability is currently extremely difficult. These fellowships will
play a vital role in increasing the proportion of highly qualified women
within the higher ranks of academe.

Proposed approach

Postdoctoral researchers and research scientists should be eligible.
Eligible researchers would include American citizens, permanent residents,
and researchers currently being paid from an NIH grant. Fellowships should
be available to both men and women, and would be awarded based on academic

Up to 12 months (beginning in the third trimester) of financial support for
each child, for up to three children (born or adopted). Fellowships could be
used for either a 12 month leave of absence or subsidize part-time work for
up to 5 years.

There are four reasons the NIH should invest in family fellowships:

a) A large amount of money has already been invested in these scientists.
Currently, a significant amount of funding spent on training female
scientists is largely wasted when they are forced to leave science.

b) In many cases maternity leave is already being supported indirectly by
the NIH.
NIH Principal Investigators often pay for family leave for their
postdoctoral researchers. However this support depends on individual
university policies or the attitude of the PI. Often a PI is forced to steer
a very difficult course between providing a supportive environment for a
researcher who wishes to have a family, and the need to make productive use
of valuable research funds. By providing a separate source of funding to
cover family leave, these fellowships will rationalize the provision of
these benefits and make PIs much less ambivalent about hiring postdoctoral
researchers who may be planning on starting families.

c) These scientists are potentially as productive as those that don't
require family fellowships.
Evidence suggests that women who successfully negotiate this stage in their
careers are as scientifically productive as their male counterparts.
Moreover, these fellowships will be based on academic merit and will
therefore target the most talented scientists.

d) It is the NIH, not universities, that is invested in the success of these
It is not in the interest of universities to provide generous maternity
leave to postdoctoral researchers and research scientists, because they are
not long-term employees. But at the postdoctoral level these researchers
already have made a 'commitment to science'. If given the support they need,
they will continue to make valuable contributions to our nation's science.
It is for this reason that the NIH needs to fill the gap, and provide
financial as well as moral leadership.

For these reasons, providing additional support for researchers at this
particular stage in their careers will dramatically increase the
effectiveness of the training funds that NIH currently provides.

Rationale - does the proposal meet established criteria?

Is the initiative transforming? Most attempts to address the lack of
faculty-level women within the sciences have focused on changes within
universities. Providing benefits within the NIH is a fundamentally different
approach. Many universities already offer generous maternity leave to
faculty. But the age at which researchers obtain faculty positions is
relatively old in the sciences compared to the humanities (the average age
of a first RO1 is now 42). Many women are not prepared to assume that they
will remain fertile into their late 30s. However, most universities do not
provide generous maternity leave to postdoctoral researchers/research
scientists, because they are not long-term employees. So, women in science
are offered generous benefits by universities, but only after the age at
which they actually need these benefits. Benefits timed to match women's
biological imperatives offer the potential to dramatically decrease
attrition at this career stage.

Will outcomes synergistically promote the individual missions of Institutes
and Centers?
Largeamounts of money are wasted across the entire NIH in training women who
leave science in their late 20s and early 30s. The proposed family
fellowship will increase the efficacy of NIH training funds.

Does the proposed initiative require participation from NIH as a whole?
An NIH-wide fellowship program will provide a psychologically important
signal that retaining women researchers is important across the NIH.

Is the proposed initiative something no other entity is likely to do? Is
there a public health benefit?
As described above, universities are unlikely to provide the necessary
support at this particular stage in researchers' careers. Family fellowships
will increase the efficacy of NIH training funding by stemming the attrition
of extremely talented researchers. Like Pioneer awards, these grants have
the potential to dramatically improve the quality of our nations' science.



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