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More Data, More Review Needed

In its review of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research grant awards, the US Government Accountability Office found no evidence of disparities in success rates by gender at the three agencies with enough data. But it also found that some agencies are not conducting required Title IX compliance reviews.

The review, which was conducted in response to a request from lawmakers, focused on the six agencies that fund 90 percent of federal investment in basic and applied research: the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, NASA, and the Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The analysis found no discrepancies in success rates between 2009 and 2013 for female and male researchers seeking grant funding from NIH, NSF, or USDA-NIFA, but the other agencies had limited data, something the GAO suggests they rectify.

But, the DOD and the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes NIH, have not been conducting required Title IX compliance reviews, according to the GAO report. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 addresses sex discrimination in federally funded grant programs at educational institutions.

As NIH funding grantees account for the majority of STEM research grantees, this means that "billions of federal research dollars may not be subject to potential Title IX oversight," the report says.

HHS officials told the GAO investigators that it hadn't conducted such reviews in order to focus on civil rights enforcement in healthcare settings and that it had only received a few Title IX complaints.

GAO further suggests that the DOD and HHS begin conducting Title IX compliance reviews, and that the Department of Justice, which coordinates Title IX compliance across federal agencies, help information sharing across these STEM agencies.