Rock Talk

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10 thoughts on “Balancing Life and Career

  1. This is an outstanding development and I am glad that the NSF has taken up the clarion call for increasing the support to men and women in research careers. My fiancé and I, both of whom are independently-funded trainees in the NIH system, hope that those initiatives also come to be promoted by the NIH. It is much easier to be outstanding researchers when adequate tools of support are available to those families that contribute so greatly to the NIH system. Moreover, providing the framework of support to NIH-associated family members can also serve as strong recruiting tools to future generations of researchers that view the life-of-a-researcher as one forbidding a ‘normal’ family life. We are looking forward to seeing those NIH ideas and initiatives in the future!

      • Why is there an exception on these policies for NRSA awardees? When I had an intramural competitive post-doc award (equivalent to the extramural NRSA) at NINDS and become pregnant, the AO informed me that the award allowed for no more than 6 weeks paid medical leave. If I wanted to take additional unpaid leave (as I requested after I ended up having to have a C-section), it would be considered a leave of absence and I would lose my health insurance! This is outrageous and a far cry from family friendly. I understand that these policies differ somewhat between institutes, but wanted to bring to your attention the fact that this is happening and see if any action has been taken to rectify these kinds of problems.

        • Though I feel that this situation is unfortunate and I completely sympathize, this is no different from how any employee would be treated at any other job in the US. Childbearing and childcare are not valued in US society if one compares us to other western countries. I’ve had this conversation multiple times with other women and men but there is never a proposed solution. Maybe we should look at how other countries successfully navigate this road. However we are in the US and no one wants to pay more taxes so we are in a catch 22 situation.

          • This is a very trite answer for what is essentially a policy issue. Allowing policies which promote sustainable, healthy families and promotes the well-being and long-term productivity of awardees has nothing to do with implied profligacy of the organization or the government as a whole.

  2. Life and career balance can only be achieved through the harmonization of external help/policies and internal adjustments, and the latter should be more important than the former. Biological sciences consume a large amount of time, which is a undeniable fact. Therefore, time management skills will be our best friend. Additionally, personal flexibility, good communication with partners and kids, and a supportive community can also greatly enhance the experiences of researchers. I greatly appreciate current NIH policies that alleviate some acute pains, but at the same time still hope for more “soft” policies that aim at helping researchers develop all the personal management skills that will benefit us on a daily basis.

  3. Having read over the NSF initiative link provided above, I’m glad that a strong guide for development of family-friendly policies is based on the needs of women who want to nurture their kids without imperiling their career. I want to point out that policies that support a balanced life are good for both men and women who want to be good parents. Most families earning moderate incomes (science is generally that way) have two working parents, and both need flexibility to meet current work/life demands, especially in science careers. I still think that the primary reason for stress is the battle for scraps of funding, especially for those non-tenure track researchers who must raise their entire salary through grants. If the ratio of grant seeking to research effort is not improved, no amount of “flexibility” is going to solve the challenges we face.

  4. Unfortunately the institutions have the final word to decide if they implement NIH family-friendly policies or not. So it sounds great, but it’s not a reality, at least in my institution. I recently attended a conference with my baby and hired a nanny for four days. I was hoping to use my grant money to pay for the charges. Just got an email from some administrative in my institution denying to pay for the costs based on the fact that, according to NIH, “ such costs have to be incurred under formally-established institutional policies that are consistently applied regardless of the source of support”. Apparently my university does not have an institutional policy regardless of the source of support for these types of costs, therefore they don’t allow me to use my grant for daycare charges …. So the family friendly guidelines are a nice step forward but they’ll be useless unless the institutions adopt policies to apply them.

  5. ” such costs have to be incurred under formally-established institutional policies that are consistently applied regardless of the source of support”

    This is a big institutional loophole for any policy that the academic institution does not wish to employ. We have had this phrase offered to us on numerous occasions in response to our request to use NIH guidelines in dealing with insurance issues, and even on issues to which it does not remotely apply. NIH should eliminate this language.

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