Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Does your race impact your chances of receiving NIH funding?

A recent study revealed a surprising statistic regarding NIH funding. Black researchers were 10% less likely than whites to receive NIH funding between 2000 and 2006. This statistic holds only for black PhD-level researchers - not other minorities - and the disparity is shown even when controlling for similar academic level and institution.

Predictably, NIH has panicked and is working to understand the cause of this disparity and try to find ways to eliminate it. Some critics have suggested that there are inherent flaws in the review system that can be impacted by bias of reviewers. In some cases, I can understand their point. Perhaps some reviewers believe that historically black colleges and universities have poorer resources, or that an education from an HBCU is inferior. However, other than in proposals involving individuals who attended or are employed by HBCUs, I do not understand how race can become a factor for reviewers. True, there are some ethnic names that are more popular among certain races and ethnicities, but I have known just as many black Michaels, Jasons and Ashleys as I have white ones. What else is at play here?

As you may have guessed from reading this blog, I firmly believe that success in obtaining grant funding is often rooted in the quality and quantity of help received in proposal preparation. So perhaps, in exposing the disparity in NIH funding, the researchers actually exposed a disparity in institutional support provided to black researchers.

What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment