A new study has revealed some disturbing information about race and science: black scientists are less likely than white ones to win grants from the National Institutes of Health, even if they have similar levels of experience.
According to ABC, the study found that between 2000 and 2006, 27% of white applicants were approved for grants, while only 17% of black applicants were. No such gap existed for Hispanic or Asian-American scientists. The NIH review committees that make decisions on applications don't see the applicants' races — however, it's possible that they may guess it from other information and engage in conscious or unconscious bias. Study author Donna Ginther says it's also possible that black scientists aren't getting the mentoring early in their careers that applicants need in order to navigate the competitive process.
Regardless of the cause, it's a serious issue. Says former NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington,
All of this should worry scientists and worry the American people at large. The American people may not be reaping the benefit of having the best minds and the best ideas being supported to go out and solve our major health problems.
Not only that, but black scientists themselves are being denied a fair shot at advancing their careers. We frequently focus on the problems women in science face, but we should remember that race as well as gender is an issue in scientific fields. And we need to eliminate both forms of discrimination if we want to make the American scientific community both internationally competitive and just.
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