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National Science Foundation
NSF's Career-Life Balance Initiative
Office of the Director (OD)
Postdoctoral Fellows Programs
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Balancing the Scale: NSF’s Career-Life Balance Initiative

"The development of world-class STEM talent positions the U.S. for future global leadership in forging new and transformative discoveries, learning, and innovations, in a time when other nations increasingly are developing and retaining their own talent. However, although women and girls comprise a significant fraction of the STEM talent pool, recent studies (e.g., Staying Competitive, 2009) have demonstrated the adverse effect that lack of family friendly considerations have on women’s progression to the top ranks of the scientific enterprise (especially academe). Family formation, notably marriage and childbirth, is a key factor for the departure from the STEM workforce between Ph.D. receipt and achieving tenure for women in the sciences. Needed progress can take place only through changes in the attitudes, policies, and practices that inform how we educate the workforce and manage in the workplace."

"It is timely therefore to provide incentives that will effect change in institutions that result in gender-neutral policies and practices that lead to the increased participation and advancement of women scientists and engineers in the scientific enterprise". ~ Dr. Subra Suresh

Applicability of NSF Career-Life Provisions

Life always has been, and is now, a balancing act. Given the close linkages between academic researchers and academic institutions, it is appropriate for NSF to take a leadership role in finding ways forward along the career-life path. This website has been designed to consolidate – and highlight – NSF’s efforts to clear the obstacles from the STEM Career-Life pathways leading from graduate education through to full professor.

In general, NSF policies and procedures support the ability of project personnel to address personal issues such as dependent care. For example, existing Foundation-wide policies permit the extension of NSF awards for researchers who take a leave of absence for dependent care responsibilities, as well as the use of NSF award funds to replace project personnel during a leave of absence. Those standard provisions are described in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) posted on this webpage.

In addition to these foundation-wide career-life policies and procedures, NSF provides several new opportunities in the specific solicitations highlighted below. These solicitations were chosen to introduce new paths, as they are considered to be our most prestigious and high-impact programs, serving graduate students (GRFP), postdoctoral fellows, early career academic awardees (CAREER) and institutions seeking to advance women in academia (ADVANCE).

White House Activities

NSF Career-Life Balance Guidance

Program Solicitations Promoting Career-Life Balance Policies

Federal Policy Requirements

Career-Life Balance Resources


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