|T H E N I H C A T A L Y S T||M A R C H A P R I L 1997|
Below are comments we received in response to questions posed or issues raised in the last two issues.
On Quality-of-Campus-Life Issues
The lack of parking and daycare impede efficiency for working parents who must juggle parenting and work-place responsibilities. NIH should definitely be making a larger investment in on-site daycare and a commitment to working parents.
Cathryn C. Lee, NCI
Good news. See the article concerning parking. As for daycare, the Office of Research Sservices, with Dr. Varmus' blessing, has requested $3.5 million in the proposed FY1998 Buildings and Facilities budget to build a new daycare center. The proposed site is near the Natcher Building, which is consistent with the NIH master plan. Of course, there are no guarantees that the money will be approved by Congress, but it looks hopeful. In the meantime, the Day Care Oversight Board will be discussing this with the ORS and making recommendations on a final plan for using this new resource. One plan on the table is that the current POPI (Parents of Preschoolers, Inc.) facility would move into the new building. The Building 35 facility, where POPI is now housed, would be renovated, and Childkind, Inc., would move into that space. In addition to addressing critical problems with the physical condition of the current facilities, this plan would significantly increase the number of infant and prwschool daycare slots on campus, where care is most in demand.
Michael Gottesman, Deputy Director for Intramural Research
I have several thoughts concerning childcare at NIH. Although I have no small children now, childcare is an issue for many staff nurses and research nurses at the Clinical Center. I understand that the current [on-site] daycare is used to the maximum, with few openings. Also, this daycare is not an option for staff arriving for duty before 7 a.m.
Because of the daycare situation and the fact that private babysitters are very expensive and difficult to obtain, may staff choose to work only part-time or evenings, nights, or weekends. Flexiplace is feasible for some jobs, but the flexiplace program does not necessarily work for researchers who often need to be present to interact with patients.
Another problem is that many staff take sick days when their children are sick. They also get called at work when their children become ill and often must leave immediately to take them home. An idea worth considering is to use some of our resources to provide sick-child childcare for staff members' children.
Barbara Corey, CC
I enjoyed the parenting issue and found especially pertinent the section on postdocs. I also share mixed feelings about the leave policy. It would be nice to have flexible-time and generous family-leave policies, but how about what your peers and your supervisor feel about it and, ultimately, what your c.v. is going to look like? Personally, while I felt I wanted to spend a long time at home with my babies, I also felt that as a scientist, I would lose ground comapred with my colleagues who remained in the lab, as well as the esteem of my supervisor. Frankly, I am still wondering how feasible it is to be a good parent and to pursue an ambitious career.
I also think the $250,000 cost to upgrade NIH daycare facilities is worth it. It will create a better working environment, promote productivity in the longrun, and, finally, fulfill a decisive and leading role in education.
As far as the preschool is concerned, how about taking advantage of the multicultural and multilingual environment of the NIH campus and of the preschool itself to turn it into an international preschool? In addition to American childrem whose origins are already varied, the preschool hosts Indian, Chinese, japanese, South African French, Swiss, German, Polish, Italian, Argentinian, and Iranian children. Why not have teachers who know and could use another language? How about ethnic cooking; geography; new topics of conversation and circle time, such as the customs, music, dance, costumes, mythologiesthe heritageof other countries? A timid approach exists in the present preschool, but an officially international school would base its curriculum on the diversity of these kidsand use it as a source of knowledge as well. Food for thought.
Rosaura Valle, CBER, FDA
NIH must commit more to daycare. . . .Whether you have kids or not, daycare is important to you because your co-worker can't do his/her work propoerly if childcare concerns interfere. We are all in this together.
Improve and expand NIH daycare now!
On Parking Perplexities
As a recent recipient of a ticket for parking on the lawn in Lot 41 due to a total lack of any legal parking spaces, the current situation has caught my attention. I've been at NIH for close to seven years and understand the problems concerning parking here. The situation was brought into clear focus for me about a year after my arrival when I attended a retirement party for a technician with close to 30 years of service. She related a story about a "town meeting" with the new NIH director that occurred about six months after she started working at NIH.
The main complaints voiced at that meeting 30 years ago were the lack of parking and the down time of the elevators in Building 10. It was after hearing that story that I abandoned all hope. In light of that, i still have a couple of suggestions that may be helpful.
1. Allow postdocs to participate in the TRANSHARE program. While i understand that postdocs are not classified as federal employees, funding for this could come from other monies, including gifts, currently earmarked only for postdocs. I would estimate that close to 25 percent of the Bethesda campus population are postdocs. In addition, many live close to Metro lines and would use them if they could afford it. A directed focus on reducing the number of cars used by this population, as well as guest researchers, would help enormously.
2. Allow for "partial-TRANSHARE." In other words, some program for individuals who can use public transportation several days a week, but must still use their car on some days. One of the primary barriers to the TRANSHARE program is total surrender of your parking sticker. I could easily use public transportation at least two days a week, but the cost is prohibitive. It's cheaper for me to drive and take up a space. While I understand the difficulty in implementing such a plan, I think it's worth looking into.
3. Reevelauate the 0.5-spaces-for-each-employee law implemented with Montgomery County. While Montgomery County enjoys the benefits of a substantial tax base, we suffer the idiocy of not having a place to park where we work. I think the harsh reality must be faced that this rule isn't working and will not work, considering the long-range goals of moving more (not less) people onto the main campus. The addition of two or three underground or multilevel parking garages would solve many, if not all, of our current problems.
4. Reestablish parking for instrument and technical service engineers. During the "recent" parking crisis, we've had complaints from service reps who cannot find parking to come in and repair lab equipment. This is due primarily to the loss of some of the Building 10 parking spots due to construction. One possible solution is to allow service reps to park in the current bloodbank spots as well as visitor spots.
5. Finally, in light of ongoing construction and the reduction of the few spots we do have, I feel that any conferences scheduled fore the main NIH campus should be canceled until these projects are completed and the parking spaces restored. I think it's grossly unfair to both conference particiapnts and regular NIH employees to have to battle for a parking spot. Until NIH can solve the problems of finding spots for its own employees, I don;t see how it can, in good conscience, invite 200300 or more visitors onto campus for a meeting.
I hope that some of these suggestions will be helpful, and I hope that whoever came up with 0.5 spots/employee rule pays the ticket I got last week. But as I said before, I've abandoned all hope.
Jack Simpson, NIMH
On the Telecommuting Solution
A large part of the research of some intramural scientists involves computing, writing papers, and reading paperswhich could be done as well at home as at work. Some of us live very far from NIH because, for example, a spouse works in another city. With such a long commute, the amount of time saved by working at home and not sitting in traffic can be substantial. Needless to say, this extra time could be better spentdoing more research or spending more time with children. When one has a young child in daycare with both parents working far from home, the problem of long commutes makes it that much harder to juggle work and family responsibilities.
If our productivity is judged based on our research, what does it matter if we work at home or at NIH? Some private companies allow employees to work at home. In a memo dated July 11, 1994, President Clinton urged the heads of executive departments and agencies to expand family-friendly work arrangements. Other agencies have instituted pilot programs for working at home. I urge NIH to do the same.
Stuart G. Baker, NCI
The article on "Parenting at NIH: It Takes a Campus" in The NIH Catalyst was highly informative with regard to various alternatives NIH parents have in utilizing available campus childcare facilities and community daycare centers. I have a suggestion that was not addressed in your articlethe potential of telecommuting in balancing work and family responsibilities. For example, NIH scientists could utilize telecommuting technology as an alternative to facilitating greater flexibility in the area of work and family responsibilities. I'm sure you are well aware of telecommuting environmental benefits regarding lessening of air polluting and traffic congestion. We haven't addressed at NIH the social and organizational benefits of telecommuting, particularly in the areas of family leave, alternative work schedules, and scientific work productivity. I would like to suggest that an NIH committee of composed of scientists and human resource professionals be convened to explore and, if feasible, promote greater use of telecommuting at NIH. . . . Let's have community-wide cost-benefit discussions with respect to NIH's crossing the bridge into 21st-century technology.
Ron Sleyo, NIDDK
On Improving NIH Work Life
We need better space management, especially in Building 10. Some labs are so crowded, OSHA wouild shut us down!
On Clinical Research
Congress and the American public expect NIH to conduct research that would eventually benefit them. Without clinical research, NIH cannot live up to this expectation and will be irrelevant. Clinical research should be top prioritythe H in NIH stands for public health.
On Priorities for the NIH Director
Help foster closer ties with other local institutions, hospitals, and medical associations to help widen the patient base for clinical research.
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