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When reviewers focus on the science described in a grant proposal rather than the CV, female researchers do just as well as their male colleagues, Nature News reports.

It adds that researchers led by Holly Witteman from Laval University took advantage of a situation in which the Canadian Institutes of Health Research eliminated its traditional review process to start two new grant programs: one that evaluated the application and one that evaluated the applicant. As the researchers report in a preprint appearing at BioRxiv, they analyzed 23,918 grant applications from 7,093 applicants to find an overall funding success rate of 15.8 percent.

After adjusting for age and specific field, the researchers also found that male applicants did 0.9 percent better than their female colleagues under the traditional review process. Similarly, there was a 0.9 percent difference in the new review program that focused on evaluating the science. But, the new program in which the review focused on the applicant had a 4 percent gap in favor of the male applicants.

"That's a significant difference," Witteman tells Nature News. She notes, though, that the study was not randomized and that she and her colleagues didn't have access to data like the applicants' publication records to see if those differed.