In effort to understand continuing racial disparities, NIH to test for bias in study sections
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, has decided to find out whether its fabled grantsmaking process discriminates against African-American scientists.
Armed with new data showing black applicants suffer a 35% lower chance of having a grant proposal funded than their white counterparts, NIH officials are gearing up to test whether reviewers in its study sections give lower scores to proposals from African-American applicants. They say it’s one of several possible explanations for a disparity in success rates first documented in a 2011 report by a team led by economist Donna Ginther of the University of Kansas, Lawrence. The so-called Ginther report also noted that black researchers are more likely to have their applications for an R01 grant—the bread-and-butter NIH award that sustains academic labs—thrown out without any discussion by study sections and that black scientists are less likely to resubmit a revised proposal for a second review.