The NIH has taken the concerns we raised and our suggested responses seriously. We had both phone and video conferences with key NIH leaders (Dr. Jon Lorsch, Dr. Janine Clayton, Dr. Kay Lund, and Dr. Paula Strickland).
We also received a formal response to our letter from Dr. Michael Lauer (Deputy Director for NIH Extramural Research) outlining ongoing initiatives and potential solutions. Please click on link below to read the entire letter or see below for key excerpts.
A few key excerpts:
Paid parental leave:
NIH also understands that some/many extramural institutions may offer less than 8-12 weeks of parental leave for those funded on a research grant led by a Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI). As this is institutional policy, a potential approach would be for NIH to develop a communication strategy with institutional leadership and faculty to encourage a uniform approach across all grant mechanisms.
…it is possible to request paid NRSA/fellowship extensions equivalent to the duration of required parental leave. NIH will gather data on the number of requests submitted and granted to provide an evidence base to guide how best to ensure implementation.
NIH can engage in a discussion about whether it could be possible to allocate additional NRSA funds such as 10 percent of the stipend to the IA or TRE or even the $12,000 requested to cover childcare. NIH can also discuss potential costs and required institutional policies to cover funds for childcare through NIH research grants.
Overall NIH understands and recognizes the challenges that women and families with children face in maintaining research productivity, as well as covering costs of childcare. NIH is working currently with the Office of Research on Women’s Health to consider programs to promote retention of women in the NIH-funded workforce. Current efforts underway include the development of a portfolio of initiatives to address the underrepresentation of women in biomedical careers.