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Mostly Men, Eh?

Male scientists are more likely to be awarded one of the US National Institutes of Health's Early Independence Awards than female scientists, Science reports.

The Early Independence Awards were established in 2010 by NIH Director Francis Collins with the goal of enabling promising researchers to establish their own labs right out of graduate school, without doing a postdoc, it adds. The award provides researchers with $250,000 a year for five years. In 2014, the agency noted that the average age of an Early Independence Award recipient was 32.1 years old, as compared to 42 years old for other PhD researchers receiving their first award.

But Science reports this effort to help young investigators launch their careers has largely helped male researchers. The awards made in 2015, it says, were the most skewed, with men making up 58 percent of the applicant pool, but 81 percent of the recipients. Other years, it says, had less pronounced differences, though still statistically significant ones.

This year's recipients are to be announced later this week, Science adds, noting that the panel that rated applicants was chaired by Inder Verma, who was suspended from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and who resigned this month as editor-in-chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, after sexual harassment and discrimination allegations were made against him. Verma has denied the allegations.

NIH tells Science that it did not know about the allegations against Verma before he was invited to chair the panel and did not learn about his December suspension from PNAS until after the panel's work ended. 

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