Washington, DC – Responding to the results of a National Institutes of Health-commissioned study published in this week’s Science journal, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) called for a re-evaluation of NIH’s grantmaking process that may be biased against African-American scientists applying for grants. According to the report, “black Ph.D. scientists—and not other minorities—were far less likely to receive NIH funding than a white scientist from a similar institution with the same research record. A black scientist's chance of winning NIH funding was 10 percentage points lower than that of a white scientist.” The NIH-commissioned analysis was conducted by research economist Donna Ginther of the University of Kansas (Lawrence) who previously has studied the participation of women in science.
“The Ginther study raises concerns about the NIH grant review process. After controlling for education, training, affiliations, and other factors, African-American scientists are less likely to receive funding for research proposals than their white counterparts. It also is discouraging that the sample size for Native American researchers was too small to measure.
“NIH, which receives $30 billion annually in federal taxpayer dollars, has a responsibility to ensure that its grant review process is transparent and equitable, and that its research workforce is diverse. As President Obama wrote this week in his executive order on diversity in the federal government, ‘The Federal Government has a special obligation to lead by example … We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society.’
“As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, and one of the strongest advocates in Congress for NIH funding, I am calling on NIH to conduct a thorough, agency-wide evaluation of NIH’s grantmaking process and implement steps to ensure equal opportunities for all qualified applicants. The leadership of the new National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) must be integrally involved in every step of this effort, and Congress must conduct aggressive oversight to make certain the integrity of the process. I am encouraged that significant progress in this area can be made, but only with the sustained commitment of the NIH leadership.”