How conferences are supporting scientists with young children

An editor writes about the inspiration behind the new Elsevier Family Support Award for Cell Symposia

Anne Granger, PhD, with daughter Elly and son Nils.It’s Sunday morning. Elly (age 4.5) and Nils (1.5) bring me breakfast in bed, huge smiles on their faces. I feel like the luckiest mom in the world, and a bit tired too. It’s 5:30 am, and in an hour I have to leave for the airport for another conference. It’s hard to go. And I know how hard it will be on my husband and my children. But it is a cornerstone of my job.  

As a mother and a scientific editor, I get how critical attending a conference can be. It’s the way I network and make the connections I need to bring great papers to Cell Metabolism. I’ve heard that it gets easier as children get older, but for now I feel like I have to compromise.

With this in mind, I helped lead the creation of a new award program for our conference series, Cell Symposia. This Elsevier Family Support Award will help early career scientists (both men and women) with young families advance their work with a little more peace of mind.

Like everybody, I wear multiple hats; and like everybody, I often wish days were longer. I recently heard economist Paula Rayman speak at a workshop about work-life balance, and two things stuck with me: first, work-life balance is a moving target; you always have to adjust. And second, the secret is to have the right partner. I could not agree more!

My husband is also a scientist. We both attend conferences throughout the year and value this aspect of our professional lives. The one staying home then becomes a temporary single parent (wondering how single parents make it work) and adjusts his/her schedule accordingly. We find ourselves relying more on babysitters to help with the kids since both our families are far away.

How to apply for an award

The Elsevier Family Support Award supplements costs related to childcare for early-career researchers attending the 2015 Cell Symposia. Up to $500 per award will be granted to students, postdocs, and young investigators (within your first 5 years). Delegates with accepted abstracts are eligible for this award.

For an application, please contact Samantha Roythorne (

Babysitters are expensive, and flying your mother in for a long weekend — especially from France — costs even more. There are times as a scientist when you can’t make a conference, even when you’re invited as a speaker, because it is just too far and logistically too complicated. I know people who only travel locally while their children are young because they have to stay and pick their kids up from school. Fortunately, it’s becoming more common for conferences, especially organized by societies, to offer grants that can help people in these specific situations. Travel awards don’t typically cover childcare, so having a separate pot of money dedicated to helping scientists with young families is a welcome addition.

It became clear that that’s the direction Cell Symposia needed to go. Working with my Cell Press colleagues, we came up with the idea to provide financial aid to help offset the cost of $500 for early career scientists attending our conferences.

Because the Elsevier Foundation has set up a wide variety of childcare grants for universities and other meetings through its New Scholars Program (see breakout box below), I reached out to Program Director Ylann Schemm for guidance. “When I thought about the innovative work the foundation has supported to help early career researchers balance a demanding career with family responsibilities, it was the childcare grant programs that resonated most,” said Ylann, a mother of three who also attends many conferences.

Cell Symposia Scientific Director Dr. Angela Messmer-Blust and I then worked with Nigel Clear of Elsevier Global Conferences to create this award, which was funded by Elsevier.

The first awards will be handed out next month (at the moment, up to five for each of the eight symposia). But if the grant proves to be popular, we hope to continue the program in future years.

For many people doing postdoctoral fellowships or starting their lab, parenthood can come at the expense of their career. These family support grants are one way Elsevier and others can lead the charge to make science a career for anyone who decided to raise children.

Cell Symposia Schedule 2015

The Elsevier Foundation’s support for childcare

By Ylann Schemm

Ylann SchemmEquitable Solutions for Retaining a Robust STEM WorkforceThe Elsevier Foundation New Scholars Program supports a wide range of programs to help early career researchers balance a demanding career with family responsibilities. Childcare for scientists attending events has been an important component.

Since 2006, the foundation has supported 16 different childcare grant modules totaling over $800,000 with universities and societies across the US and Europe. This was done through caregiver grants, onsite conference childcare, nanny services and other innovative ideas. Working with the Association of Women in Science (AWIS), we identified what worked best — far and away, childcare travel grants give parents optimum flexibility and value when balancing networking, collaboration and childcare. These best practices were distilled in the 2014 book Equitable Solutions for Retaining a Robust STEM workforce.

It's inspiring to see these ideas and best practices being embedded in the Cell Symposia this year, and I'm proud the foundation's work could help facilitate it.

More on the foundation’s childcare grants:


Elsevier Connect Contributor

Anne Granger, PhDDr. Anne Granger (@Cell_Metabolism) is an Associate Editor at Cell Metabolism. She received her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Université Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris. She then came to the University of Pennsylvaniato conduct postdoctoral research in cardiovascular biology with Dr. Peter Gruber and diabetes with Dr. Jake Kushner. She joined Cell Metabolism’s editorial team in 2011.

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