According to a recent study in the journal Science, Black scientists are more likely to be rejected for medical research funding despite education or achievement. Although race and ethnicity are a part of the grant application, that information isn’t available to the reviewing committee. But what may be a factor, according to the article, are subconscious beliefs about ethnic sounding names or bias toward candidates who attended ahistorically Black college and university. With only 2.5 percent of Blacks earning PhD’s in the sciences and engineering, the findings of this study don’t make the science field appear promising.
The other factor is a numbers game. There simply aren’t enough Blacks pursuing PhDs in the sciences. And there are even less Black scientists applying for NIH grants. As long as the numbers are low there will continue to be disparity. At least the NIH responded to the study and agreed “more research is needed to investigate the review process.”
“While the results of the current study are disheartening, this study will likely have positive impacts on future PhDs and MD/PhDs,” he says.
“Some members of the scientific community are aware of the issues associated with racial and ethnic diversity, [but] others are likely completely unaware of the intrinsic biases in the system,” Beck adds. “Improvement is impossible without quantifiable outcomes.”
Toliver says the first step is for the NIH to ethnically diversify its review committees to increase the chances of fairness.”