By Judi Casey

I am thrilled to inform you that the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced funding for the Work and Family Researchers Network, a social and virtual connector for interdisciplinary work-family researchers based at the University of Pennsylvania. The new Network builds on the well-established Alfred P. Sloan Work and Family Research Network that has operated at Boston College since 1997.  Sloan Foundation support will enable the current Network to transition from a Foundation-funded project to a sustainable organization enhancing future work-family scholarship.

“This represents an exciting new stage for the Work and Family Research Network,” said Kathleen E. Christensen, Program Director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “This is a new and unique model for professional societies that includes an innovative open access web platform that will provide a new level of community in which scholars can share their work and ideas – at all stages of development.”

University of Pennsylvania Sociology Professor Jerry A. Jacobs, a leading work-family scholar, will be the principal investigator and executive officer of the new Network.  I will continue to be the director of the new Network via a subcontract to Boston College.

“The challenges of combining work and family confront a large and growing segment of American society,” said Jerry Jacobs, who has conducted research on this topic for fifteen years. “This grant provides an exciting opportunity to bring together scholars and researchers from diverse disciplines, to communicate more effectively, to share ideas and to advance the ability of America’s institutions to address the needs of our nation’s families.”

By relocating to the University of Pennsylvania, the new Network will be able to draw upon the skills and resources of Penn’s renowned Population Studies Center, the Wharton School and more than 20 interdisciplinary work-family scholars located in 8 different schools across the university.

The Work and Family Researchers Network will be comprised of a virtual online community, a membership organization, biennial conferences and two new cohorts of the successful Early Career Scholars Program.  An innovative open access web platform will be built with similar benefits to the current Network but at significantly lower costs.  This is a natural evolution of the Network’s existing model of staff-produced content to a decentralized, user-based model of community resource generation and dissemination.

Capitalizing on the latest technological advancements, the new website will include an open access repository of academic work-family literature including journal articles, reports and working papers, a ‘news tagging’ system for updates in the field, a Who’s Who database as well as a document download center archiving much of the current Network content.

The membership network will have many of the characteristics of a professional society, but more importantly, members will be the driving force behind populating the site with content as well as contributing dues to ensure sustainability.  Over 150 scholars have already signed on as either Founding (senior scholars) or Sponsoring (junior scholars) members.

The synergy between the integrated open access and membership components of the Work and Family Researchers Network will offer an exciting new organizational model for 21st century work-family research and scholarship.  The next generation Network will significantly contribute to the vitality of academic work-family scholarship and ensure that high quality work-family content continues to be available and accessible on the World Wide Web into the future.

Jerry Jacobs and I are so grateful to the Sloan Foundation for this opportunity and will be providing you with more information about the new Network over the next few months.  During the transition, all the information and resources of the Sloan Network will continue to be available to you.

 

Judi Casey is currently the Principal Investigator and Director of the Sloan Work and Family Research Network at the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. She was hired as the Director of the Network in September 2005. Prior to the Network, she worked at the Boston College Center for Work & Family in various roles for the past 15 years.