A study showing that black National Institutes of Health grant applicants are 10 percentage points less likely than white applicants to win funding made waves among the research community when it was published in Science last week. In the time since, several bloggers have voiced opinions on the issue. DrugMonkey says the study highlights "a big issue that should be a big wake-up to the NIH," and adds he is hopeful researchers will not be "discussing the same disparity five or 10 years in the future and similarly wringing our hands." Indeed in response to the study, several agency officials have promised to look into ways to make changes to help balance the scales, including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Acting Director Susan Shurin. In a memo initially distributed among internal staff, Shurin said that while the study's conclusions were unsettling, "it is in some sense even more disturbing that they are not at all surprising to NHLBI scientific staff." During a Science Careers live chat this week, study co-author Laurel Haak said that she, too, was not surprised by her team's findings overall. "What was surprising was that the difference was only for black investigators submitting grants, and that the variables that explained differences for other groups were not explanatory for the black investigator group," Haak said.
Throughout the live discussion, Discovery Logic/Thomson Reuters' Haak and Chad Womack — founder, president, and chair of the nonprofit TBED21 — fielded participants' questions regarding minorities and women in science, which ran the gamut from research institutions' family-friendliness to changing the structure of academic research mentorship. A full transcript of the Science chat is available, here.