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Study of Bias in Funding

The US National Institutes of Health is starting a study next month to gauge how bias affects minority researchers seeking grant funding, Nature News reports.

While NIH has an initiative in place to mentor and train minority researchers to increase their representation in the sciences, studies have suggested that even after accounting for differences in training and publication records, an African-American researcher is two thirds as likely as a white researcher to receive funding.

As part of this new project, NIH will examine whether grant reviewers consider race — even unconsciously — when evaluating a proposal.

Some proposals will be stripped of information that reveals names, racial identification, and other information before they go to reviewers. The agency will then examine whether that change affects grant scores.

“If the disparity drops with anonymization, that’s clear evidence of bias,” says Richard Nakamura, director of the Center for Scientific Review at NIH.

But even if the agency doesn't find a clear indication of bias, it may uncover other factors that influence the racial disparity in grant funding.

It could, Monica Basco, the executive secretary of the Diversity Working Group’s peer-review subcommittee, tells Nature News, find that proposals from minorities are written in a way that doesn't appeal to reviewers, and thus indicating that grant-writing help could be a possible solution.

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