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Score Disparities Found

Black scientists tend to receive less favorable application scores when seeking US National Institutes of Health grants, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

A University of Washington-led team of researchers analyzed R01 applications submitted and reviewed by NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR) between 2014 and 2016. Of these, 1,015 applications were submitted by black principal investigators and 45,211 were submitted by white PIs. 

As they report in Science Advances this week, UW's Carole Lee and her colleagues uncovered a disparity in the overall award rate, as the award rate for black applicants was 55 percent of that for white applicants. Additionally, they report that black PIs receive worse scores on all five criteria — significance, investigator(s), innovation, approach, and environment — than white PIs, even when compared to PIs matched for degree, career stage, and other factors. This then affects black PIs' overall impact scores, they note.

The Chronicle adds that NIH introduced these five criteria scores in 2009 to bring more transparency into the grant process and that CSR is revisiting how the criteria are scored. "I'm hoping they'll keep these issues in mind as they think about how to reform that process," Lee tells it.