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Topic choice works against black NIH applicants

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Science  11 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6462, pp. 164-165
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6462.164

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Summary

A team of scientists has identified a key factor in understanding why black applicants are significantly less likely to receive funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) than their white counterparts. It's the topics that black scientists want to study. Specifically, black applicants are more likely to propose approaches, such as community interventions, and topics, such as health disparities, adolescent health, and fertility, that receive less competitive scores from reviewers. And a proposal with a poorer score is less likely to be funded. The finding is already prompting discussion about whether that disparity is rooted in NIH's priorities—and whether those priorities should be rethought. The study, published on 9 October in Science Advances, is based on a text analysis of some 157,000 proposals submitted between 2011 and 2015 for NIH's bread-and-butter R01 grants.

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