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Diversity

Black scientists are more likely to work in research areas with less NIH funding

by Andrea Widener
October 12, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 40

 

Black researchers receive US National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants at lower rates in part because they work in areas that are less likely to be funded across all of the agency’s programs, according to a new study (Sci. Adv. 2019, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw7238). Black scientists are more likely to work in community- and population-based research than in more fundamental or mechanistic areas, the study shows. That difference accounts for more than 20% of the funding gap between white and black researchers. “These results were a surprise—research topics that were less funded are vitally important,” NIH director Francis Collins says in a statement. “We need to understand whether there is an intrinsic bias against such topics by reviewers, or whether the methodologies used in those fields of research need an upgrade.” The analysis builds on previous studies showing that black scientists are less likely to receive NIH funding than their white counterparts. To understand why, agency officials examined applications submitted to NIH from 2011 to 2015. The study also confirmed that biases against younger scientists and those at institutions that are less well funded contribute to the gap.

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