Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Look into the Issue

After a study in 2011 found that black grant applicants were less likely to receive funding than their white colleagues, the US National Institutes of Health announced that it would be examining its grant-awarding process for bias. As ScienceInsider reports, the agency will be launching that review later this year.

As part of this effort, names, research institutions, and other identifying information has been removed from 1,200 grant applications submitted between 2014 and 2015, ScienceInsider says. The anonymized grant applications will then be sent out to researchers to review, just as in the first stage of the NIH peer-review process.

NIH’s Center for Scientific Review's Richard Nakamura decided to focus on this stage of peer review, as this appears to be the point in the process that led to the discrepancy between black and white applicants, ScienceInsider notes. CSR is funding the review, but an outside firm is conducting it, it adds.

In particular, the project will compare 400 applications submitted by black researchers and will compare them to 400 applications submitted by white researchers that have been matched to the research topic, institution type, and original score, among other variables. The final 400 applications were submitted by white applicants, but were otherwise chosen at random.

However, ScienceInsider says that some researchers like University of Wisconsin's Molly Carnes who study the peer-review process are skeptical that anonymization will address the issue. Still, Carnes says it's heartening that "NIH is willing to shine a light on its own processes."