A member of GSA’s Conference Childcare Committee presents an overview of childcare resources available at scientific conferences.

Guest post by Madhumala K. Sadanandappa.

Recently, I received an email from the Genetics Society of America (GSA) regarding my interest in being a part of the Conference Childcare Committee that aims to tackle the childcare-conference conundrum as outlined in Calisi et al., 2018. The committee has been tasked with exploring better ways to accommodate primary caregivers attending GSA conferences. Based on my personal experiences at scientific meetings, this is a much-needed initiative to address the challenges faced by both parent-researchers and the conferences.  

Before choosing my postdoctoral research, I planned to attend a well-known, reputable, biennial conference in my field. Besides offering an excellent platform to present my work, the conference offered a timely opportunity to survey my study area and weigh my future course of research. However, the meeting failed to accommodate my parental needs, including practical and monetary considerations for breastfeeding and childcare. As an early career researcher, it was not feasible for me to afford additional travel expenses. So, after weighing my options, in addition to planning for a solo trip, I forced myself to wean my toddler early. This decision left me with a heavy heart because I really enjoyed my time nursing my daughter and also, as a researcher, I admired the beauty of nature that was unfolding around me. Therefore, I have enthusiastically agreed to serve the GSA conference childcare committee as a parent postdoc researcher.

Going forward, normalizing parenthood at conferences will empower parent-scientists (especially early career researchers) to thrive in science. To achieve this goal, many scientific societies are working to reduce the ‘baby penalty’ on parent-researchers. With the purpose of serving as a resource for parents and parents-to-be, here I list some of the childcare services that are currently provided by various conferences/societies to their attendees, including dependent/carer grants. In addition, I hope that the compiled data in this article may offer some ideas to conference organizers to accommodate parent-scientists at their meetings.

Below are the societies that offer family-friendly facilities, such as on-site/off-site daycare services for infants and children, a family room and/or nursing room at the conference area: American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), American Fisheries Society (AFS), American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), British Ecological Society (BES), Ecological Society of America (ESA), European Conference on Computational Biology (ECCB), European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) conferences and symposia, Evolution meetings, International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB), GSA conferences, International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), Japan Neuroscience Society (JNS), Japanese Society of Developmental Biologists, Society of Experimental Biology (SEB), Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) and Society for Neuroscience (SFN).

Don’t forget to investigate support from your host institution. Dependent care travel grants for faculty members have been established at Harvard University, Stanford University, UC Irvine, Princeton University, Cornell University, The University of Chicago, Brown University, Vanderbilt University, UCLA, University of Glasgow, and several other institutions. In the United States, childcare professional development awards are offered to postdoctoral researchers by UC San Diego,  University of Michigan, Yale University, West Virginia University, Northwestern University and the University of Colorado Denver.

Parent scientists: don’t forget that conferences can help not only your professional development but also your family. Because your participation matters!

About the author:

Madhumala K. Sadanandappa is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Molecular and Systems Biology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, NH. She is also a member of the GSA’s Conference Childcare Committee. She would like to thank Shivaprasad H. Sathyanaryana for his help in researching this article.

Guest posts are contributed by members of our community. The views expressed in guest posts are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily endorsed by the Genetics Society of America. If you'd like to write a guest post, e-mail jtreboschi@genetics-gsa.org.

View all posts by Guest Author »