scientists were significantly less likely than their white counterparts
to receive research funding from the National Institutes of Health,
according to an analysis of data from 2000 to 2006. University
of Kansas Professor of Economics Donna Ginther was the lead author on
the study commissioned by the NIH, which appears in the Aug. 19 issue of
researchers found a 10 percentage point gap in research funding—even
after taking into consideration demographics, education and training,
employer characteristics, NIH experience and research productivity. For
example, for every 100 grants submitted to NIH, 30 grants from white
applicants were funded, compared to 20 grants for black applicants.
order to improve the health outcomes of all Americans, it’s important
for the biomedical workforce to reflect the diversity of the
population,” Ginther said. “As the population becomes increasingly
diverse, we will continue to get further from that goal unless the
research community intervenes.
grants support research into treatments and cures for diseases such as
cancer and diabetes. Such research often has a strong economic impact,
as well, because it often leads to new laboratories, job growth and
for NIH funding go through peer review that considers the significance,
innovation and approach of grant applications, the investigator(s) and
the research environment. About half of the applications are determined
to be worth scoring. Among those scored, budgets and NIH Institutes
priorities determine which applications are funded. Priorities can vary
by year and by Institute. The study found that applications from black
researchers were less likely to be scored and on average had worse
scores. After controlling for the score of the grant, there were no race
or ethnicity differences in funding.
self-identify race, ethnicity and gender, but that information is not
available during the peer review. However, biographical facts that are
included in the review materials can provide clues to the identity of
The research suggests it is possible that cumulative advantage may explain the funding differences.
differences in access to research resources and mentoring during
training or at the beginning of a career may accumulate to become large
between-group differences,” the paper says.
Additionally, the paper suggests further research is needed to determine why black researchers are less likely to be funded.
we started this study, we expected to find plausible explanations for
the race/ethnicity funding gaps that we observed,” Ginther said. “After
almost three years of work and countless reviews of the evidence, we do
not have the complete explanation for the funding gap. I applaud NIH’s
willingness to publish these results and take concrete steps to address
two-year study of 83,000 submissions bridged two presidential
administrations. All NIH grant applications from 2000-2006 were reviewed
and tracked through 2008 to include possibility of resubmission.
a related paper that studied the academic career paths of all
underrepresented groups in biomedical sciences, Ginther and her
coauthors found that lower rates of high school graduation and college
majors in biomedical science have contributed to the underrepresentation
of blacks and Hispanics in biomedical careers. Both studies are
co-authored with Raynard Kington, then-deputy director of NIH, Walter
Schaffer, senior scientific adviser for extramural research at NIH, and
Laurel Haak, Beth Masimore, Faye Liu, and Joshua Schnell at Discovery
Logic, a Thomson Reuters company.