We write regarding an important aspect of NIH'S policy concerning the training of scientists who are young women. We feel
that one aspect of this policy is incomplete and can inhibit women from pursuing careers as scientists.
Currently, anyone who is awarded an NIH postdoctoral fellowship must serve full-time, for one, two or three consecutive years,
as the case may be. Aside from maternity leave (which, presumably, would cover the period involving the birth of a child)
there is no allowance made for part-time service (and consequent extensions of the time of the award). Accordingly, a woman
for wham full-time day care is not an option and who wishes to work part-time while rearing an infant, cannot do so while
holding an NIH post-doctoral fellowship. This policy is unnecessarily restrictive and works against our national goal of training
more young women as scientists. Furthermore, it stands in contrast to the corresponding policies at many of our home institutions
to such an extent that a woman being paid as a post-doctoral associate in our laboratories can work part-time, but a woman
in the same laboratory who is a holder of an NIH post-doctoral fellowship, cannot. It is also our general experience that
women who work part-time under the circumstances described above often achieve almost as much as men or women who work full-time:
they are simply better organized and more highly motivated.
We urge you to institute a re-examination of the policy addressed above. A relaxation of the current guidelines to allow women
to work two-thirds or three-quarters time while child-rearing (perhaps to be considered as a kind of maternity leave under
a broadened definition) would benefit the whole nation.
Maxine Singer , Director, Carnegie Institution
Sidney Altman, Sterling Professor of Biology
The following individuals are signatories - in absentia. Notes of assent are available for inspection.