8 April 2019 – For scientists who are also parents, attending conferences or training courses can mean no less than a logistical masterpiece. One that is only made more difficult when both parents work in academia, perhaps even in the same field. To support parents wishing to attend one of its more than 90 scientific meetings, EMBO introduced new childcare grants this year.
Since January 2019, the organizers of all EMBO Courses and Workshops receive up to 1000 euros for childcare grants in addition to the core funding. Participants are able to apply for a grant during their regular meeting application, and the selection is handled directly by the organizers.
The grants can be used in different ways to meet the personal needs of each applicant. For example, the grants can be used to cover the costs of a babysitter or a childcare facility. But it is also possible to use the funds to pay for the travel costs of a caregiver or the costs of bringing children to a meeting.
EMBO has already been offering similar support to members of the EMBO Young Investigator Network. Edgar Gomes of the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and his wife are both group leaders and work in similar areas. He says that “the EMBO childcare support was instrumental in allowing us to hire a babysitter to stay with our two boys or to subsidize daycare at a meeting site” when they were both attending the same meeting.
Nicola Iovino, a group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg, Germany, and father of three children adds that the flexibility of the childcare grant enabled him to not only reduce the burden on his wife when he travelled but also to bond with his children.
I often feel bad about missing out on time at home when I travel. I loved having my son with me – having a chance to show him what I do when I go away.Nicola Iovino, EMBO Young Investigator
“The grant allowed me to take my son along to a meeting. At the same time my mom travelled to meet us, so that she could look after him during the day and we could then spend the evening together,” he says. “I often feel bad about missing out on time at home when I travel. I loved having my son with me – having a chance to show him what I do when I go away and also spending some time with just him.”
Inspiration for wider support
Paola Picotti at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, also has two young sons. She used the EMBO childcare grant when she was an invited speaker at a conference that fell during the school holidays and at a time when her husband, who is also in academia, had meetings he could not cancel. “In Switzerland babysitters and nannies are very expensive, so the EMBO childcare support was very much appreciated,” she says.
Picotti adds that the opportunity to use such flexible support also inspired her to establish something similar for the people in her lab. “I set up my own childcare support system,” she says, “with which I financially support lab members in need of emergency childcare.” She finances this from her core budget at the moment, but is hoping to secure external funding for her initiative in order to continue supporting the parents she works with.