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NIH Tackles Racism

An advisory committee urges the federal funding agency to take steps to counter racial bias in the granting process.

By | June 25, 2012

image: NIH Tackles Racism Image courtesy of the NIH

IMAGE COURTESY OF THE NIH

African American researchers applying for independent investigator grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are 10 times less likely to win them than their white counterparts, and the agency must take steps to correct the imbalance, according to an NIH advisory committee that submitted a report to the agency's director.

The panel, chaired by two senior African American research administrators, met with NIH director Francis Collins on June 14, and urged bold and continuous action to combat the bias revealed by a study published last year in Science. The initial steps should include data gathering by social and behavioral scientists and establishing a new "chief diversity officer" position, according to the report. The report also suggests that the NIH start mentorship networks that can help young minority scientists early on in their academic careers and floats the idea of scrubbing proposals of applicants' identities and institutions from grant proposals before they are reviewed.

The NIH seems committed to tackling the problem of racial bias in the granting process. "This is a very serious issue," Collins said at the meeting with the advisory panel. "To have this circumstance continue … is simply unacceptable."

Hat tip to ScienceInsider.

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Avatar of: Redshirt1

Redshirt1

Posts: 3

June 25, 2012

Another layer of poltical correctness?  Either the work is worth funding and the evaluations are independent or we have an "old boys" network in place and the funding judgements  are anything but unbiased for everyone involved - irregardless of ther color, sex or creed.  There was once an ad on televison that siad "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" - I suspect it needs to be applied here.  I would also note that setting quotas for funding - the politically corect method - is a waste of money as the deserved  projects should be funded and the color of the person originating them should not even be a subject for discussion.

Avatar of: Frank Gorch

Frank Gorch

Posts: 1457

June 25, 2012

Seems that the authors seriously mis-read the article.

Black investigators werent' 10 x less likely.  Rather, their success rate was about 10% less than that of white applicants.

I've quoted the relevant portion below.

"African American biomedical researchers applying for funding from the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) are less likely to be funded than
white scientists, according to a study published last week in Science.
The numbers are pretty striking, with the gap in success rates between
black and white applicants amounting to 10 percent, even after
accounting for factors like publication record, previous research
awards, education, country of origin, training, and employer
characteristics.

The study’s authors, which included former NIH Deputy Director and
African American scientist Raynard Kington, analyzed more than 83,000
applications for R01 grants submitted by white, black, Asian, and
Hispanic researchers from 2000-2006 and found that 29 percent of the
proposals submitted by white applicants were funded, compared to only 16
percent of applications from black scientists. In total, only 185 of
the nearly 23,400 grants funded during that period were from black Ph.D.
scientists—a mere 1 percent—though African Americans make up only 1.4
percent of R01 submissions."

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