Work and Family Researchers Network at Penn State

The Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN) has a long history of involvement at Penn State.

According to Sarah Damaske, associate professor of labor and employment relations, sociology, and women’s studies, WFRN is comprised of work and family researchers from all over the world and represents many areas of academia, including sociology, psychology, health and human development, history, economics, and more. “WFRN is a wonderful opportunity to make connections between fields, find common ground for collaboration, and enhance research.”

WFRN, formerly known as the Sloan Work and Family Research Network, is an international membership organization of interdisciplinary work and family researchers. The WFRN also includes policy makers and practitioners to promote knowledge and understanding of work and family issues.

At Penn State, researchers such as Damaske, who currently serves as WFRN treasurer, and Orfeu Buxton, associate professor of biobehavioral health who is a WFRN sustaining member, as well as many graduate students and postdocs over the years have taken advantage of both the virtual and face-to-face interactions made available through WFRN.

WFRN offers sharing opportunities and networking via their website, which includes the only open access work and family subject matter repository, the Work and Family Commons. The Commons allows researchers to share research reports, journal articles, conference papers and presentations, books, book chapters, and working papers via a permanent and free online access area.

Additionally, WFRN hosts various networking events and a biennial conference. "OpenScience: Assumptions and Translation of Work and Family Research" will be held June 21 – 23, 2018 at the Capital Hilton hotel in Washington, D.C.

“The past three WFRN conferences have been exceptional networking and learning opportunities,” said Buxton, who is also director of the Sleep, Health & Society program at Penn State. “The collegial environment includes practitioners and researchers at all levels, and involves many ways to really get to know other researchers in work and family and to develop new ideas and collaborations, especially in applied and translational work-family research. I’m looking forward to what will be an exciting fourth biennial meeting.”

The conference will be proceeded on June 20 with a pre-conference workshop day on "Translating Scholarship into Action: Positioning Research to Fit the Needs of End-Users." The workshop will enhance skills work-family scholars possess to influence those operating on the front lines –  including media representatives, public administrators, policy makers, and those engaged in workplace management.

The WFRN also offers an Early Career Work and Family Fellowship Program, which provides support for recent doctoral recipients to advance their research, teaching, and long-term career prospects.

Damaske, who was a recipient of the fellowship, says the program helps to form a network of work-family researchers, allowing awardees opportunities to form collaborations and develop a support system at the conference and other events. Applications for the fellowship are due September 15.

“Both the conferences and workshops are an invaluable opportunity for researchers, policy makers, and practitioners to connect on knowledge and understanding of work and family issues, said Damaske. “At previous conferences, attendees have been able to advocate for policy change through meetings with U.S. Senators and House of Representatives and their staff. Work and family issues transcend party lines, and many these elected officials want to learn more about work life issues.”

Other Penn State faculty involved with WFRN include Susan McHale, director of the Social Science Research Institute and distinguished professor of human development and family studies; and David Almeida, professor of human development and family studies.