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In a report addressed to the US National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee to the Director, an NIH working group says that the agency needs to take steps to combat racial bias in the funding of research grants, reports Science's Michael Price. The group says its goal is to correct what it calls the "disturbing discrepancy" between the number of black applicants winning R01 awards compared to white applicants. The panel is co-chaired by UnitedHealth Group's Reed Tuckson and the NIH Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities' John Ruffin, Price says.

While the panel has laid out an agenda, it has yet to offer specific recommendations, and has given no estimates of how much such a program might cost, Price says. Tuckson has said it's too soon for such details, as NIH first needs to get together with other agencies to fully support institutions that train minority researchers, Price adds. The panel also recommended that NIH create a new position of chief diversity officer, conduct pilot testing of the NIH review staff's awareness of bias and diversity, and experiment with anonymous reviews, where applicants' identities are blanked out.

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