Advanced Research Awards Increase Visibility of Active Women Scientists
25 New Visiting Professorships Announced For Fiscal Year 1995
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As part of an ongoing effort to help women overcome hurdles in science and engineering, the National Science Foundation has granted 25 new professorship awards under its Visiting Professorships for Women (VPW) program.
The VPW program gives experienced female scientists and engineers the opportunity to conduct advanced research at academic institutions of their choice, where they have access to the top scientists in their fields and the most advanced research facilities in the country. The award provides funding for travel to the host institution, basic research expenses, and salary for a period of six to 15 months. Since 1982, nearly than 350 women have received VPW awards.
The recipients of this year's awards, which total about $ 3.21 million, are geographically distributed across 15 states and represent 16 scientific fields. The VPW program is one of several NSF programs that address underrepresentation of women. In 1992, women constituted 45 percent of all workers in the U.S. but only 18 percent of the science and engineering work force. Underrepresentation varies by field; for example, according to Science and Engineering Indicators, women comprised 30 percent of all chemists but only 11 percent of all geologists in 1992. The same year, they comprised only nine percent of working engineers.
During a recent evaluation of the program, awardees who were asked to rate the impact of VPW reported that they spent nearly twice as much time on research during VPW as they did at their home institutions, and that their professional careers had benefited greatly. Ninety percent or more of awardees surveyed reported that the program had a positive impact on their research programs, professional development, and scientific reputation.
"The VPW award brings three important resources to bear on an "awardee's research program: protected time to focus on research, high-quality colleagues with whom to exchange ideas and collaborate, and premier research facilities," said Margrete S. Klein, who manages the VPW program for NSF. "This combination goes a long way toward eliminating the unique set of hurdles that women face in entering, persisting and succeeding in science and engineering."
However, some of those hurdles are more difficult to pinpoint than a lack of access to colleagues and facilities, Klein added. For that reason, role modeling is also a key component of the VPW program. In addition to conducting their research, awardees are expected to spend about 30 percent of their time interacting with students--lecturing, mentoring and working together on research.
"When a female science or engineering student meets a working scientist or engineer who is also female, she is less likely to give up on her field of study when things get frustrating," said Klein. "Attrition of women from science and engineering study programs is still much higher than that of men. The VPW program helps experienced female researchers reach their long-term career goals, while also helping those who aspire to follow her to keep their career goals on track."
Visiting Professorships for Women 1995 Awardees
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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