I was pleased to see that this year’s Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego offers subsidized on-site childcare for participants in the meeting. But even after the subsidy, it isn’t exactly cheap; at $14/hour, a mathematician who wanted to attend the conference full-time would easily spend over $300 on childcare.
Can you use your NSF grant to cover this $300? Nope:
Can NSF award funds be used for travel and associated dependent-care expenses for dependents of individuals funded on an NSF award?
NSF award funds may not be used for domestic travel costs or associated dependent-care expenses for individuals traveling on NSF award funds. Travel costs associated with dependents may be allowable for International travel in accordance with Award and Administration Guide Chapter V.B.4, which contains several stipulations, including that travel must be continuous for a period of six months or more.
What about organizers of NSF-funded conferences? Can we offer to use NSF money to cover childcare costs for attending mathematicians? That’s another nope:
Can conference/workshop awards or travel funds from research awards be used to support child care at conferences and workshops?
NSF award funds may not be used to pay for travel costs or expenses related to onsite care (e.g., daycare) for dependents of participants at NSF-sponsored conferences and workshops. NSF-sponsored conferences and workshops are encouraged to consider child-care services to ease the burden on attendees, but the costs of such services are the responsibility of those that choose to utilize the accommodations.
For me to go to a conference requires me to buy a plane ticket and book a hotel room. NSF wants me to go to conferences, so they allow me to charge these unavoidable expenses to my grant. If I’m a single parent of a 1-year-old child, going to a conference requires me to have childcare available at the conference location. No childcare means I don’t go to the conference. If NSF is willing to pay two hundred bucks a night for my hotel room, why not a hundred bucks a day for childcare?