NIH Uncovers Racial Disparity in Grant Awards

Science  19 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6045, pp. 925-926
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6045.925

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An in-depth analysis of grant data from the U.S. National Institutes of Health on page 1015 of this week's issue of Science finds that black Ph.D. scientists—and not other minorities—were far less likely to receive NIH funding than a white scientist from a similar institution with the same research record. A black scientist's chance of winning NIH funding was 10 percentage points lower than that of a white scientist. The NIH-commissioned analysis, which lifts the lid on confidential grant data, may reflect a series of slight advantages white scientists accumulate over the course of a career, the authors suggest. But the gap could also result from "insidious" bias favoring whites in a peer-review system that supposedly ranks applications only on scientific merit, NIH officials say. The findings have shaken NIH. Director Francis Collins and Deputy Director Lawrence Tabak have co-authored a response on page 940.