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NIH Researcher Alleges Gender Bias in Tenure Decisions

A National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke researcher has lodged an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against her institute's director and others after failing to be put forth for tenure consideration for a second time despite high-profile studies, an international profile, and a recommendation from an outside panel, the Washington Post reports. In her complaint, Bibiana Bielekova, the NINDS researcher, argues that this is due to gender bias.

Twenty-two percent of the tenured researchers at NIH are women, the Post notes, adding that that's an increase from 19 percent in 2011. Currently, women make up 38 percent of tenure-track researchers at the agency, an increase from 36 percent in 2011. At NINDS in particular, three women and 34 men have tenured positions, which institute director Walter Koroshetz acknowledges is "terrible."

"It's not negligence," Bielekova tells the Post. "Women are considered second-rate citizens. They are fully aware that this is happening, the leadership. It's happening with their blessing."

NIH officials tell the Washington Post that there are additional factors than merit that go into the tenure decision, such as budget constraints and personality clashes. "Tenure decisions are complicated, and not just about what you've published," Story Landis, the former NINDS director, says.

This subjective part of the decision process, DrugMonkey adds at his blog, "lets in a whole lot o' bias."