Working Life

Got milk, must conference

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Science  16 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6377, pp. 838
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6377.838

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  • RE: Response to the Working Life piece by Rebecca Calisi (“Got milk, must conference,” February 16, 2018)
    • Suzanne Epstein, Associate Director for Research; immunologist, PI, FDA, CBER, OTAT

    I applaud Dr. Calisi for advocating family-friendly practices at conferences. I’m also in favor of lactation facilities, and fought hard to have a lactation room included in the plans for a new research building while it was being designed. I understand the problem, having had to pump in the restroom of a lab building every day when my children were young, over 30 years ago.

    However, in another way her essay and its catchy title (perhaps added by Science) may give young scientists the wrong message. One doesn’t have to go speak at a conference shortly after a birth in order to survive in science. She chose to. That presumably was the right choice for her, but it would not be for everyone. We should not give young scientists the impression that any other choice ruins a scientific career. That might discourage scientists who have additional priorities, and could drive them from the field. I made different choices than Dr. Calisi, and progressed in my research and in my scientific career anyway.

    Some mothers and fathers want to temporarily reduce their work hours and avoid travel when they have a young baby in the family. Their decisions should not be based solely on fear or the priorities of others, and they can still work towards productive and satisfying scientific careers.

    “My comments are an informal communication and represent my own best judgment. These comments do not bind or obligate FDA.”

    Competing Interests: None declared.

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