Thank you for your October 30 letter regarding the involvement of women in research. This touches on an issue of particular
interest to me. We find that about 41% of our new research training appointments are filled by women. Apparently many women
drop out of research before they reach the stage of independence as an investigator because women comprise only 19% of the
principal investigators on research project grants. As you suggest, I believe we need to improve retention of women by developing
mechanisms to permit adaptation to child care and elder care responsibilities that are disproportionately borne by women.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been exploring several options for addressing these issues within the National
Research Service Awards Programs. One option includes providing for paid parental leave which would be available to new mothers
and fathers. The second option would permit part-time training in instances of disability or pressing family circumstances
which could include child care or elder care. In the case of part-time training, the service payback obligation would be incurred
on a pro-rated basis.
Both of these options have been developed by the Training Advisory Committee and are expected to address some of the problems
women experience while preparing for a career in research. Both options are being evaluated by the NIH Legal Advisor for compliance
with existing statutes and the need for regulatory modification.
I appreciate hearing from you and Dr. Sidney Altman on this important matter. Should you have any additional questions, please
contact Dr. Walter Schaffer, NIH Research Training and Research Resources Officer at (301) 496-9743.