Supporting Scientists at the Lab Bench ... and at Bedtime

Ed note: This has been cross-posted from the Office of Science and Technology's blog

Today is a good day for science and technology, a good day for scientists and engineers, and a good day for the nation.

As highlighted in a Washington Post op-ed this morning, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is announcing a major, 10-year initiative to provide greater work-related flexibility to women and men in research careers. 

Among other advances, the NSF—the Nation’s major funder of research in engineering, computer science, mathematics, and other high-tech fields that will be central to U.S. economic growth in the years ahead—will allow researchers to delay or suspend their grants for up to one year in order to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or fulfill other family obligations.

That change and others being launched today at a White House event featuring First Lady Michelle Obama and NSF Director Subra Suresh aim to facilitate scientists’ reentry into their professions with minimal loss of momentum—especially women scientists, who, more often than not, are the ones who end up delaying or dropping their promising science careers because of competing family demands.

Today the White House also announced the winners of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)—the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers.

There’s a great synergy between these two announcements because these up-and-coming researchers are tomorrow’s all-stars in the making, and about 40 percent of them are women. The Nation needs all of these high-achievers, including all those women, to stick with their innovative work—to make the discoveries and design the technologies that will keep America the international science and technology powerhouse it is today.

Finally, special kudos to NSF and others in the Administration, including staff here at OSTP, for using the convening power of the White House and the Obama Administration to encourage businesses and academic and professional organizations to adopt policies similar to those that NSF is putting into place. Several are today announcing ambitious efforts in coordination with NSF’s announcement.  A list of them is available here.

John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
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