publication rate/maternity leave

linden higgins linden at
Wed Dec 31 00:32:40 EST 1997

Caroline Walker wrote:

>I wonder if I can get comments on the best way to handle career breaks on
>grant applications?  One of the reviewers comments on my NSF proposal
>referred to my publication rate as being "moderate to good" - which is
>probably fair.   However, I did not mention that I have taken maternity
>leave/working part time over the last 5 years to have 2 children, owing to
>advanced paranoia that this usually results in my being taken less
>seriously.  But I wonder now if I was being too cautious.  Would it have
>been better to include this information somewhere on the proposal so that
>my publications/years of research is more accurately reflected?  It seems
>that this would be a fairer way for panels to assess the productivity of
>researchers - but are panels ready to consider this sort of information?
>Has anyone had experience of how to handle this?

I've not tried to talk to anyone about the maternity slow-down (I have a 18
mo old).  But in my first year of a previous NSF grant, I suffered a very
serious assault while doing the field portion of the first experiment.  It
took me almost a full year to recover.  I did one major thing wrong:  I did
not contact my panal director immediately to inform him of the problem,
thinking I could "handle it".  The end result was that I finished the
series of experiments the year after the money had ended, and am still
working on publications.  My comments from reviewers on my renewals has
been that the publications from the funded research are insufficient.
Finally, in frustration, I wrote to the panal director (I had been
encouraged to do so by a woman who corresponded with the Women in
Engineering and Science discussion group, WISENET), and later spoke with
him over the telephone.  He was _very_ understanding, and this year with
the resubmission I will enclose a note giving him permission to state to
the panal that L. Higgins does indeed have a real reason for having no
publications beyond "submitted" for this research.

This is a long-winded way of saying that I would communicate with your
panal director, and discuss it.  I would not put it in writing on the
proposal.  What I gather is that hte director will inform the panal that,
if their complaint is slow rate of publications, that is something that was
"short term" and is no longer a problem.  Actually, I did put something in
my proposal last time - a friend had marvelous wording, to the effect that
the delay in publication reflected a personal situation that has been
remedied, or somesuch.

At least, it made _me_ feel better.  The grant did not get funded (I'm on
my 3rd try in January).

Best of luck,


Linden Higgins
Department of Zoology
University of Texas
Austin, TX  78712

telephone:  (512) 471-6905  FAX (512) 471-9651

linden at

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