Penn Awarded $990,000 Sloan Foundation Grant for Next-Generation Work/Family Research Network

PHILADELPHIA – The Work and Family Researchers Network, a social and virtual connector for interdisciplinary work-family researchers based at the University of Pennsylvania, has been awarded a $990,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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.

Jerry A. Jacobs, a Penn sociology professor and leading work-family scholar, will be the principal investigator and executive officer of the new Network.  Judith Casey, the principal investigator and director of the Sloan Work and Family Research Network at Boston College, will continue as director of the new Network. 

“This represents an exciting new stage for the Work and Family Research Network,” Kathleen E. Christensen, Foundation program director, said.  “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.” 

“The challenges of combining work and family confront a large and growing segment of American society,” said Jacobs, who has conducted research on this topic for 15 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 Penn, the new Network will be able to draw upon the skills and resources of Penn’s Population Studies Center and more than 20 interdisciplinary work-family scholars in eight of the University’s schools, including the Wharton School.

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 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 Web site 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” and 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 members will be the driving force behind populating the site with content as well as contributing dues to ensure sustainability.  More than 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.