Making Research Careers More Family-Friendly: White House and NSF Announce New Policies

November 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm 2 comments

I love the direction, to make research careers more family-friendly, but am wondering if these steps will do it. Deferring awards for one year makes sense. Paying for technicians and staff to maintain labs for a year? Not sure that really works for computer science.

Barb and I were talking about the positive impacts of stopping tenure in the United States. It might make academic careers more family-friendly. No more intense tenure race during peak years for having children.

The 10-year initiative will include provisions for grant recipients to defer their awards for up to one year for the care of a newborn or newly adopted child, allow recipients to suspend their grants for parental leave, and pay for technicians and staff to maintain labs for researchers on leave.

The plan also includes efforts to publicize these family friendly opportunities, encourage more research into workplace flexibility, and design outreach that introduces girls to women at the top of research fields.

via Making Research Careers More Family-Friendly: White House and NSF Announce New Policies | Current Affairs – ISNS.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bijan Parsia  |  November 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    “Barb and I were talking about the positive impacts of stopping tenure in the United States. It might make academic careers more family-friendly. No more intense tenure race during peak years for having children.”

    So, we don’t have tenure in the UK (after Thatcher), though, in general, labor protections are rather stronger. I don’t see that it’s really helped family time. (I find the UK, as a whole, much more family friendly in academia. Parental leave comes to mind.) Worse, we’re heading close to the moment where “normal” management practices will provide a nice tool for targeting unpopular or otherwise undesirable scholars.

    Tenure isn’t magic, after all. It’s not lifetime employment no matter what. It’s just “just cause” protection which, arguably, should be much more widely extended.

    Now, the current tenure system is mad, esp. with the contraction of tenure lines and the increase in the labor supply. But it’s hard to see that giving more power to the professional adminstrator class is going to be better for academics.

    Universities could adopt sane tenure criteria that took into account family planning.

    Reply
  • 2. Mike Byrne  |  November 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Every industrialized nation on earth has better family leave policies than the U.S., right? I’m not sure that’s a useful comparison.

    Regardless, frankly, I think tenure has actually been GOOD for my family. Yeah, I worked like a demon to get it when my kids were very young, but now that I have it I feel like I now can spend more time with them, which now also means a lot of shuttling them to piano/football practice/whatever. There is no way I could have handled my younger son’s football season this fall (four days a week for about two hours a pop) if I were still under tenure pressure.

    If you abolish tenure in the U.S. I don’t think that pressure goes away or lessens, but rather, it becomes constant throughout your entire career rather than just the first X years of it. Document everything and justify your existence every three years sounds awful to me. No thank you!

    I understand that’s not quite how it has worked out in the UK, but that’s my guess for how it would actually work out here if we abolished tenure, and I cannot think of anything that would be much more family-unfriendly than that.

    Reply

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