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White House, NSF Launch 'Career-Life Balance Initiative'


The White House and the National Science Foundation this week announced joining forces on a 10-year plan that aims to enhance flexibility for men and women in research careers. The plan, known as the "NSF Career-Life Balance Initiative," was announced jointly by Tina Tchen from the White House Council on Women and Girls, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy's John Holdren, and NSF's Subra Suresh. As part of the initiative, NSF plans to offer "a coherent and consistent set of family-friendly policies and practices" agency-wide, according to a White House Office of the Press Secretary statement. Among those policies and practices, NSF intends to allow funded PIs to postpone grants for up to one year after childbirth or adoption; suspend their grants to take parental leave; and apply for stipends to pay research staff while they, as lab-head, are on leave. NSF also plans to "publicize the availability of family-friendly opportunities," via announcements as well as within its program solicitations; "promote family-friendliness for panel reviewers," by allowing them opportunities to conduct virtual reviews; "support research and evaluation" efforts aimed at retaining women in the science, technology, engineering, and math pipeline; and to expand its existing relationships with academic institutions "to encourage the extension of the tenure clock and allow for dual-hiring opportunities." The White House notes that several independent organizations have "announced initiatives in coordination with NSF and the White House," including the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, the Association for Women in Science, and the American Association of University Women, among others.