Monday, November 23, 2009

Family Event Productivity Loss

One of the interesting aspects of the recent Center for American Progress report, Staying Competitive: Patching America's Leaky Pipeline in the Sciences, is the recommendation that funding agencies and/or universities provide supplementary funds to "offset family event productivity loss". This recommendation is distinct from those about providing family leave benefits to graduate students and researchers. In this specific case, these supplementary funds would go to the principal investigator of a grant that pays the salary of a person having a "family event" and would therefore (in theory) make PIs less reluctant to hire researchers (e.g., women) who might have such an event (e.g., a baby).

Last summer I wrote about some of the issues for PIs re. paying the salary of someone who has a family leave. The new report addresses some of these issues with the recommendation that PIs receive supplementary funding to cover family leave for their researchers.

I like this idea because it might create a more family-friendly environment for early career researchers: students and postdocs and other research scientists, female and male. I like that it attempts to reduce the problem for PIs who, however well-meaning and supportive, may be harmed by a situation in which grant funds are paid to someone who needs a leave of absence and who is therefore not actively working on the grant's research for a while.

But I wonder how this would work. If I am supervising a graduate student or postdoc who is doing research related to a grant of which I am the PI, and that student or postdoc needs to take time off for a "family event" that will reduce or obliterate their ability to do that research, what would I do with supplementary funding?

Despite the dire world economic crisis, there doesn't seem to be a pool of unemployed or part-time scientists with the necessary training such that they could parachute into a project with a few month's notice, keep the project going for a few/6/more months and then hand the research back over to the returning grad or postdoc to pick up exactly where their substitute left off. Even if such highly-qualified and flexible researchers existed, this scenario wouldn't work for many reasons, including the fact that it involves the undesirable situation in which someone is hired to do some of the thesis or postdoctoral research of someone else.

In a few cases, though, it might work, depending on the project and the stage of the project during the leave. I can imagine some situations in which I could pay a graduate student to do some prep work or certain kinds of analyses, thus moving the project along but not complicating the situation.

In many cases, however, if I were handed the equivalent of the salary of a researcher who takes a leave of absence, the best I could do is extend the length of the project so that the work would get done when the researcher returned, just not in the original time frame of the work plan. That wouldn't help if the research involved time-sensitive activities, but it would help other projects, especially if the extension were no more than 3-6 months.

Are there other possibilities?

If you are a PI, how would you use supplemental funding to deal with a temporary suspension of a research project (or part of a project) during a researcher's "family event"?


Anonymous said...

"Despite the dire world economic crisis, there doesn't seem to be a pool of unemployed or part-time scientists with the necessary training such that they could parachute into a project with a few month's notice"

Actually, FSP, isn't this statement the opposite of all the statistics showing that there are too many PhDs being produced with not enough jobs for them? Furthermore my own experience doing many years of postdoc-ing because there was a shortage of PhD-level jobs in academic science, and the similar experiences of so many of my friends and colleagues, seems to agree with it.

In fact the over-supply-of-PhDs issue is at the heart of postdoc exploitation by PIs - postdocs who can't deal with the long hours and low pay don't have much recourse because PIs can simply replace them with a fresh crop every few months. (and yes it does happen, I've seen it many times.) Not to mention the great numbers of foreign grad students postdocs who would like to stay on in ths U.S. and for whom getting another postdoc position is the only way.

I myself have been unemployed as have colleagues I've known due to funding being cut. In my experience, the unemployed scientist is an extremely common scenario. In better economic times they went into industry. Now, they are simply unemployed or lowering their expectations to yet more meagerly-paid postdoc positions.

Thus, how can you say that you would be hard pressed to find a replacement if one of your employees had to take a leave of absence due to a family event?

FemalePhysioProf said...

I would use the funds to hire additional technical support to speed the student/postdoc's transition back to productivity. I agree it is not really possible to hire someone to do the research during the absence, but tech support in advance (for predictable family events) and after the fact could help make up for lost time in terms of research productivity.

Let's say a PI earns 3-person months of tech support per family event (a not unreasonable estimate of the productivity loss). This could be saved over multiple family events to provide salary support for a research technician. Such a system would likely require a minimum term before the earned compensation could be used and an expiration time-frame.

Also at my U, a postdoc on fellowship that is suspended during maternity leave is entitled to paid leave. Although this is a university policy, the PI must pay for the leave from non-restricted funds. So, these are $$ that could be going to research that now go to cover benefits. (PDs paid on research grants are covered by the grant.) I would use "family event productivity loss" funds to provide paid leave for the such PDs.

Anonymous said...

You can plan ahead and use undergrads to cover those few months. Such events can usually be planned months ahead, giving time to hire and train the undergrads prior to the grad students/postdocs taking their leave of absence.

Anonymous said...

I am an early career scientist... a postdoc... and I really think this consistent marauding of science with family leave and all such crap is a travesty. Science is unique among professions, it's operating procedures, it's core values, it's culture, it's chain of command, all set it apart. The military has a separate niche among all professions, so does science. I do very much subscribe to the model of the obsessed, driven achiever that has served society so well over the years. Attempts to dumb it down, to make it just another day job, with paid vacations (instead of research sabbaticals) and family leave, should be resisted. At this rate, soon we will have people coming in around 9 am and looking at their watches around 4pm.

Anonymous said...

I am rather confused by this (probably because I don't understand the American system). You say this proposal is distinct from providing family benefits to researchers. Does this mean the intention is to give additional funding to PIs whose researchers take a family leave, in ADDITION to providing family benefits to the researcher? In other words the PI gets extra money in addition to saving the salary of the researcher? In that case surely it is possible to creatively use the extra money. It sounds like a good idea actually, to offset the inconvenience of having someone take family leave.

On the other hand, if this is intended purely to supplement the salary of someone who takes a family leave, how is this different from family benefits? Aside from the fact that it can presumably be used for other types of family events (good idea, actually).

Outside the US it seems to be the norm for governments to pay for salary for researchers on parental leave, for periods ranging from a few months to over a year. I don't think people typical go around complaining about the disadvantages of this - isn't this what we are all striving for anyway? There are many ways to make this work out; thousands of people do it every day, and I think avoid many of the problems discussed in the comments to your last post (on work-family balance).

You also mention that it would be best if the leave were only 3-6 months. I have the impression leaves of a year are actually easier on PIs - in this case you can actually hire a post-doc to fill in for the person on leave, if you aren't paying their salary anyway.

But perhaps I have not understood the purpose of the proposal you describe?

Anonymous said...

Here are a few ideas:
1) Use the funds to outsource a small but necessary part of the project to a commercial provider -- i.e. subcloning a mutant protein, building a particular device, etc. Assuming that the student has or will have another opportunity to preform this or similar tasks, this approach should not detract from their training but will alleviate some of the lost time issues.
2) Use the funds to help accelerate the project when the student returns. i.e. Buy ready-made buffers or other reagents/instruments the lab would normally put together on its own. This might offset the decreased number of hours most parents are able to put in when they do return to lab.
3) Pay other students to pick up some of the slack. (some of the fund from idea #2 should go to these students' own projects too.) The parent should reciprocate when he/she returns. (This has the added benefit of giving each student in the lab the opportunity for getting second or third authorship on other students' publications in addition their own - hopefully - first author work.)

If the other students complain that the parent is getting an unfair advantage, point out that (a) these students would want the same benefits if something (i.e. medical emergency) took them out of lab for a while (hopefully there would be supplemental funds for this too), and that (b) everyone benefits from the continuation of the species and from having a diverse community of scientists that includes mothers and fathers, and finally (c) as nice as these ideas would be, the disadvantages of having to balance science and caring for children fair outweigh any gains here. Unfortunately, the nature of the beast is simply that -- due to lack of sleep, additional responsibilities, stress, etc. -- a new parent just will not be as productive as he/she was before. The best we can do is try to alleviate some of that burden for the first year or so, until things get back to normal.

Meadow said...

This is a tough one. In my field where we can do our work at home it is not much of a problem as we can continue working on the project at home. But I can see where this can be a big problem if the work needs to be done in the lab in collaboration with others.

Many problems will be solved if there is a general understanding that sometimes women need to get off the tenure track and be mommies for a while and later they will get back on the tenure track.

Even in my field where we can work at home, many women who take time off formally for kids don't make it back. They try, but the odds are stacked too high against them. They eventually become adjuncts or take a position low on the academic totem pole.

This puts a lot of pressure on women to stay on the tenure-track/postdoc threadmill at all costs. Some are trying to juggle things, others just avoid having kids till they feel they are in a secure position (and then it can be too late).

qaz said...

It depends on the project. For some projects, there are two separate components - a technical component and a thinking component. Often times, the technical component could be run by a technician allowing the person "on leave" to work on the thinking component from home. For some projects, the money could be spent to allow the person in question to work from home. When my sister moved to follow her husband, she brought with her extra computer and specialized analysis equipment. (Not exactly the same, but I could see a similar process working.) This wouldn't work for every field or every person, but I could imagine that the money could allow the student to work from home and to take on a more supervisory role for those six months. I can see some people able to check in for a couple of hours a day to do analysis or make sure data is coming in correctly. It would probably go slower, but it wouldn't stop the science. Again, it would depend on project and person, but I can envision cases where this would work.

Prof-like Substance said...

In Canada, postdocs have the same parental leave benefits as everyone else and they are provided by the government, not the lab. That doesn't solve the problem of how to get the work done, but it takes the burden off a PI when it comes to supporting a researcher with a new baby and frees up the salary money to hire someone else during the leave.

EliRabett said...

Well, approaching that age, there might be a parachute regiment, folk who have recently retired. You could use the supplement to hire one of them for a few months. Since they are senior, they might not work as many hours, but since they are senior, they might not need to in order to get the same results and they might not need much training to get up to speed

This could be win-win.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it would be more helpful to provide re-entry funds. NIH does a little of this, but I only know one person who has received such funds. Having an opportunity to re-enter the full-time science workforce after some time off for family or a period of reduced hours would ease a lot of pressure. Right now, a lot of people feel like they have to stay on the track. There is little room for a break, and it is virtually impossible to get back in once you are out. I could easily arrange to work part time as a research associate while having kids, but I am afraid that I would get stuck in that role because there is really no path for re-entry as a budding PI. This has nothing to do with a waning commitment to science. It has to do with being a human being who wants to actually have time for kids and not live like a stress-crazed maniac all of the time. Anyone who thinks you need to give up your life to be a good scientist needs to get into the 21st century!

neurowoman said...

1) In my experience, there are tons of capable people around, who wouldn't necessary be able to get up to speed on the more specific aspects of a project, but could certainly help out. Techs let go by PIs without money, temporary postdocs for folks who are stuck in an awkward two-body situation, or expecting their own "family event", the spouses of foreign students/ postdocs who are looking for part-time or temporary work.

2) at a recent meeting, there seemed to be an explosion of outsourcing companies who will do lots of basic research - immunohistochemistry, cloning, etc. that would otherwise be too expensive, but quicker than hiring an undergrad. Or you can use the money to try out an expensive new technique or reagent that would push your research ahead, making up for the delay.

Female Science Professor said...

I can say that I would be hard pressed to find a replacement if one of my employees took a leave of absence because few, if any, of those 'extra' PhDs out there would likely be willing or able to drop into a project for a few months. And even if there were a ready supply of 'substitutes', few have the specialized skills for the particular research with which I am most familiar. Undergrads, other students, and some technicians could do a few things to keep the research from totally grinding to a halt, but other activities would be put on hold until the researcher returned. I am willing to do that (in fact, it happens all the time for less-good reasons than family leave); I'm just wondering what the best use of supplementary funds would be given these constraints.

Confused anon: At present in some US universities, the PI does not save the salary of the researcher on leave; the PI pays the salary of the on-leave researcher. The report I am discussing wonders whether this makes some PIs reluctant to hire those who might require a paid leave from grant funds. The supplement plan is proposed to help reduce this reluctance and minimize the problems for PIs. It's not hard to think of an entirely better system than that of a PI's using grant funds to pay for a researcher's leave, but the supplement idea was proposed within the context of that system.

Cloud said...

There are, in fact, companies that specialize in providing temporary scientists, and they will place people at most levels- up to a fairly senior researcher.

There are also consulting/contracting companies that will provide broader project based support that includes some management tasks. In fact, I am using one of these right now to cover some of my job functions while I am out on maternity leave. The funds came from the money my company is saving on my salary- my "maternity leave" is paid for by short term disability insurance, not my company.

I realize that there are some unique aspects to the academic situation, but science does get done in industry, and you might find it helpful to look at how the problem is solved in that setting. I am confident that if academic institutions started using temporary staff to help fill in for researchers on family leave, companies would start to offer the appropriate services. You still have the problem of finding the right skills and training the replacement. However, I think giving a postdoc the responsibility of training his/her replacement for a planned family leave and planning how to keep the project running at some level during the absence would actually be good training for future lab-running.

Alex said...

I yield to none in lamenting Ph.D.-overproduction, but I completely agree with FSP on the difficulty of bringing in a 3 month or even 6 month postdoc. I've worked in more than 1 field, I consider myself versatile, but I could not just jump into somebody else's project. I know that in some fields techniques are more standardized than in others, but very few projects are purely plug-and-play. Generally some innovation is required, some sort of trick. And even if the tools are 100% plug-and-play, the problem is probably subtle (or else somebody else would have plugged in the tools, gotten the answer, and published it already). It takes time to see the important angles of the question somebody else is working on, it takes time to learn the tools, it takes time to learn what blind alleys to not follow, etc. Somebody else has spent time doing that for this particular problem, and if it were so easy to just keep going then that postdoc or grad student probably could have done a rush job and gotten to an important milestone before taking leave.

Besides, I cannot believe that anybody who cares about family leave and related issues would actually support a proliferation of short-term postdocs (or whatever) for 3-6 months. The personal upheaval of constantly moving, the uncertainty of where the next job will be, all of that would be hell on a postdoc. You move, get started, then time to go? OK, there are some people who like to move around and travel, but that sort of job would select against people with family and other personal concerns. If that sort of thing took off, even if it were in support of a progressive policy like family leave, there would soon be much lamentation over the way that basic research careers have just gotten even crappier, with some people having to pick up and move every 6 months.

I don't know the best way to spend supplemental funds for a PI whose group member takes personal leave, but aside from some specialized circumstances I don't see temp help as a viable solution, even in the face of Ph.D. over-production.

zed said...

I'm a PI, and I would use the funds to cover the salary and benefits of my postdoc/grad student while s/he was on leave. I guess my work isn't that time sensitive, but if something absolutely had to get done, I could pay a tech to do it.

Anonymous said...

I am an unemployed part-time mathematician - PhD from a top school, went into management consulting, laid off in less than 6 months. Since being laid off, I have embraced the part-time work lifestyle and am trying to do this permanently.

I would love a 3-6 month stint in research at a university. One of my current projects is doing analysis for a medical research project - they used to hire a professor from the local university, but with their own budget cuts, they needed someone cheaper.

Rosie Redfield said...

Our institution has a small tax on all post-doc/technician salaries, paid into a fund that pays the components of maternity and other leaves that the government doesn't cover. The payment goes to the person on leave, not to the PI.

amy said...

anon at 3:01, you say: "I do very much subscribe to the model of the obsessed, driven achiever that has served society so well over the years. Attempts to dumb it down, to make it just another day job, with paid vacations (instead of research sabbaticals) and family leave, should be resisted."

This is a very interesting point, and I'm curious to know what other scientists think about it. I've got a couple of thoughts on it: 1) if there's only one model for a good scientist, then you're discouraging those who do not fit the model from becoming scientists. Doesn't it seem to you that science is better off if everyone who is good at science and who wants it as a career is encouraged to join the profession? Lots of people are good scientists *and* want to live a balanced life. How is it good for science if you make it impossible for them to do science in a more balanced way? You'll be missing out on lots of fantastic talent out there. 2) A person can be obsessed, driven, and an achiever without wanting to work in the lab 80 hours a week. 3) Why describe family leave policies and the like as "dumbing down" the profession? Is there some reason to think that people's scientific work is lower quality when they don't spend 80 hours a week doing science? I can see how the quantity of output would decrease, but I don't see why the quality would decrease. In fact, getting out and experiencing other things might improve a person's research. I suppose it depends on the field, but I can't imagine a psychologist doing very good work if they never get out and socialize with people, have no family life, and live in the lab all the time. 4) Making accomodations doesn't prevent a person from spending 80 hours a week in the lab, if that's what they want to do.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't apply to everyone (obviously) but some of the money could be used before maternity leave to cover an assistant for a female scientist whose research requires work with terratogens (including radioactive materials). Working with these substances isn't safe during pregnancy so the pregnant scientist could supervise the assistant who would work with the terratogens.

Also, for larger research groups, particularly ones where a professor is juggling several grants, you wouldn't need to hire an outside post-doc or graduate student to help out with a project during someone's leave. You could just add on to the duties of a current member of your lab group, paying them with this new funding for some percentage of their time. Maybe this would save a grad student from TAing a semester by giving them an RA or add 3 months onto a post-docs tenure. In this way, you could have them work on the project before and after the leave of absence which would increase continuity. You could also work out an appropriate way to distribute the responsibilities so that the collaboration good for everyone.

Cloud said...

@Alex- I understand your concerns for the short term positions, but I don't think they would necessarily be as bad as you think. You're thinking of them as postdocs- they almost certainly wouldn't be. They would be temporary postings for a scientist who is a full time employee of a contracting/staff augmentation firm.

I actually spent about 5 years as a consultant/contractor, and for me, it was a great career move. The range of projects that I worked on gave me skills and experience that helped me land the job I'm in now (a more traditional position at a biotech company).

My experience doesn't translate directly to most fields, though, because in my area of interest (scientific informatics) and my preferred job type (middle management in industry), breadth of experience is more important than depth. I have depth in a couple of fields (which is where I do my own scientific and technical work) and enough knowledge to manage people in a bunch of other fields. It works well, but this is not going to be true in every discipline.

However, in the fields for which there is an industry option, I suspect the short term positions would be filled by people planning to go into industry, and that they would find that a few years doing this sort of work would work out well for them career-wise.

Other people might take this sort of position because it fits there more general life goals- for instance, in software development, a lot of the people who do short term contract work like the no strings attach work style. They work for a while to save up money and then take off traveling or something without feeling like they are leaving an employer in the lurch.

yolio said...

It seems clear that there will be no generic solution to this problem. It depends entirely on the nature of the project. In my arena, it would make no sense at all to bring someone else new in. The only thing to do with money would be to extend the time frame of the project.

I just want to remind everyone that not all family events are pregnancies. Sometimes parents/spouses/kids get really sick. You can't always anticipate when a major family commitment will land in your lap. I like that this policy is aiming to be flexible for a diversity of situations.

As for crazy anon guy who thinks that all scientists should be obsessive: I just want to point out that the only way a system like that ever worked was when there was a large subclass of women to act as support staff (aka wives). There is a one-to-one connection between the obsessive model of science and the underclass status of women. Just so that is clear.

Anonymous said...

"Doesn't it seem to you that science is better off if everyone who is good at science and who wants it as a career is encouraged to join the profession? Lots of people are good scientists *and* want to live a balanced life. How is it good for science if you make it impossible for them to do science in a more balanced way?"

to be the devil's advocate, I'd say one reason in favor of what the Anon 3:01 is proposing is because there are not enough science jobs to go around for all the highly qualified and intelligent PhDs and postdocs. (someone else mentioned PhD over-production) Why not let the jobs go to those who will be twice as productive due to being obsessive and not wanting a more balanced life.

there are arguments that working more hours doesn't mean the work will be higher quality. Well, working FEWER hours and having a 'balanced life' doesn't mean the work will be higher quality either. Thus, since the issue of "quality" is moot, why not go for quantity which is more tangible i.e. the obsessed scientist.

But regarding "quality" of work, there are situations where being completely obsessed and undistracted by competing interests (like, say, a family) does in fact lead to higher levels of creativity and innovation - think of some of the world's greatest artists for example - they were not 9-to-5ers. I don't think this is true of the general population. I don't think most people would become better at their jobs if they did it to the exclusion of everything else. But clearly there ARE some people who are like that. Why not let them be the ones selected for science jobs since you can get more work out of them and they won't complain!

Cloud said...

Anon8:07- I see two big problems with your argument:

1. There are plenty of obsessed, "science to the exclusion of all else" type scientists who produce utter garbage. In fact, the two most spectacular grad school failures I have ever met were those type of people.

I'll take higher quality and less quantity for my tax dollars, thanks.

2. Since academic scientists choose their research topics, your approach may well skew the topics that get researched away from what is most interesting/beneficial to the more balance-oriented general population (who pay for this work with their tax dollars, after all).

I know that the experience of pregnancy and motherhood has made me think about all sorts of interesting topics that never once crossed my mind before I had kids. I suspect there is a similar effect with other things that provide "balance" to a person's life.

Anonymous said...

I think I just want a section on my renewal/app/etc that asks how REproductive my group was while maintaining science productivity. Perhaps twins will rank up there with a Nature or Science publication?

As an FSP myself, a supplement seems wholly unnecessary.

Lab folks aren't robots and productivity ebbs and flows for everyone. I think we have all seen 6 weeks "lost" by many a grad student, postdoc or tech due to all sorts of issues. Who hasn't had a graduate student who had to focus on a class, on quals, or some other family/spouse/life event. Or the international postdoc who goes home for a month (and then gets stuck there for visa issues).

Plus, the really good scientists will be organized enough to get the bench work done beforehand so that if they do have a moment while at home, they can do some writing, catch up on reading or...imagine this....think.

Maternity leave issues are not why the pipeline leaks. Women being treated poorly by a PI or those not getting a lot out of their current position/science/project/etc choose the fulfilling route. Motherhood is pretty fulfilling so who can blame them.

physicow said...

Schneikies. You've invented the research temp. I personally am attracted to the name "Physics Ninjas." Awesome.

Anonymous said...

Anon@10:13: Maternity leave issues are not why the pipeline leaks.

Not according to the first link that FSP cited in this blog post:
About halfway down, in big headings:"Family formation—most importantly marriage and childbirth—accounts for the largest leaks in the pipeline between Ph.D. receipt and the acquisition of tenure for women in the sciences."

However that article then went on to say (among other things) further down: "The time pressures of academia are unrelenting for most faculty in the sciences, who work on average about 50 hours a week up through age 62."

Um...working 50 hours per week is not much different from the non-academic world. There are many professions and jobs where you will work 50 hours a week too if not more. All my relatives work at least that much if not much much more (probably because I come from a family of entrepreneurs and business owners). Doctors and lawyers often work much longer hours.

Primary child-caregivers will in all career-sectors face difficulties with career continuity when taking time off to raise the children. It is not unique to science. And it's regardless of the gender of the primary child-rearer.

In other careers, if you drop out of your job for a few months or years to be the primary child-rearer (whether you are male or female), your job probably won't be there when you come back because they would have replaced you with someone else who COULD be there doing the work when you weren't. The world cannot and doesn't stop for you. In fact, academia seems much more forgiving than other sectors in terms of being generous with leave policies and flexible work schedules.

The article above stated that among academics, the married men with kids are far more likely to pursue AND get tenure than their female married-with-kids counterparts. Therefore, if women are disproportionately dropping out of science due to kids, it's not a problem with academia itself rather it's a social problem - women scientists in general are choosing to structure their families such that they (not their husbands) are shouldering greater childcare workload. If more men were the ones shouldering greater childcare, then they would be leaking out of the pipeline too and the statistics wouldn't be so highly skewed toward women.

I think this only shows that scientists tend to have traditional gender roles in their marriages if it's the wives who are having to be the primary caregivers (thus taking the hit to their careers as any primary caregiver has to) while the husbands are the ones who are being supported in their careers along with the kids.

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea that will only work if the PI and the trainee (postdoc or grad, whichever) are on the same page and plan ahead.

Trainee wants to have a baby (not yet pregnant), and is planning to take some time off for baby (let's say 3 months). PI sets trainee up with a reliable junior/senior undergraduate whom they already plan to hire as a technician for the summer after graduation. Trainee/trainee's spouse gets pregnant so that most of trainee's leave will fall in that summer window.

Meanwhile during early pregnancy, trainee and undergrad will work together on the project. By the time undergrad graduates and delivery/leave is looming, undergrad/new tech is ready to be the "hands" on the project, with on-leave trainee being in a co-advisory role with PI.

This would be the best circumstance, because it would provide a GOOD way to use any supplementary funds provided to the PI to continue the project, while still allowing for leave.

Of course this relies on 3 things, none of which are very predictable.
1) trainee/spouse can get pregnant as planned
2) undergrad is reliable, competent and actually sticks around for summer job
3) PI is onboard

It could also work for an unplanned pregnancy but the time scale for training the undergrad/tech would be shorter and timing might not work out as well for a summer tech.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 12:58

I am the "crazy Anon guy" @3:01 who wants all scientists to be obsessive. Maybe you are spot on when you say that there is a direct connection between obsessiveness of scientists and exclusion of women from science.

But I will ask you this. You said "crazy Anon guy". Why do you ASSUME that I am a guy? Where in my comment did I mention my gender? Do you think that being obsessive and crazy are character traits that are uniquely associated to men? If so, are you sure that YOU are not a sexist?

Please note that I am not assuming that you are a woman. I am just accusing you of being sexist.

Anonymous said...

One of the most interesting and forward-thinking ways to help avoid the problem of "family event productivity loss" as you call it comes out of Germany, of all places,
where (fellow FSP and) Nobel-prize winner Christine Nüsslein Volhard has created a foundation to support female academics with children -- not by paying them to take time off, but to pay for additional support:

"Our foundation targets specifically the problem that makes life so difficult for many female scientists, namely balancing family obligations with the duties of an independent researcher. A monthly financial grant to pay for assistance in household chores and for additional childcare is aimed to relieve these young female scientists from household tasks. The time thus freed allows them to continue working at a high standard, despite the double burden. We hope to contribute towards increasing the proportion of highly qualified women participating in high-level research in Germany."

Anonymous said...

I dont' know about trainees involving their PIs in their baby-making decisions...that makes me highly uncomfortable!! (just how many people are in the marriage? husband, wife..and the PI? LOL!)

it makes me uncomfortable as a PI, I would not want my trainee to come to me telling me they are trying for a baby. That is just too much information for me and none of my business (only AFTER they have a baby and can no longer work in my lab, then is it my business)

Minos said...

It seems like the easiest way to deal with a "family event" is to automatically trigger a no-cost-extension to the grant, right?

Kevin said...

Just got this message today:

Is there anybody interested in bringing somebody into their lab with
"with high potential to re-enter an active research career after a
qualifying interruption for family or other responsibilities"?

Research Supplements to Promote Re-Entry into Biomedical and
Behavioral Research Careers

The NIH also provides administrative supplements to research grants
to support individuals with high potential to re-enter an active
research career after a qualifying interruption for family or other
responsibilities (see
PA-08-191.html )