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Prejudice

Signs of discrimination against African Americans

Laboratory at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, where a large number of African American researchers work

Morehouse School of MedicineLaboratory at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, where a large number of African American researchers workMorehouse School of Medicine

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the leading US medical research organization, will examine whether African American researchers are discriminated against in the project review process. Preliminary data indicate that African American applicants have 35% fewer chances than Caucasian applicants of having their funding application accepted. NIH officials suspect that reviewers give lower point values than they should to projects submitted by African Americans. Economist Donna Ginther of the University of Kansas already raised the hypothesis in a study published in 2011. That study observed that African American researchers are more likely to have their applications rejected for R01-type proposals, the oldest line of funding at the NIH. This, according to the study, appears to discourage African American scientists from submitting proposals more than once. In addition to this problem, African American participation in the selection process is already very low: just 1.5% of R01 proposals are from African American scientists. Hannah Valentine, who heads the science diversity office at NIH, tells the journal Science “we need to bridge this gap.” In 2014, NIH launched programs to enhance applicant diversity, providing $25 million in funding over the next five years to research institutions that agreed to hire large numbers of minority researchers.

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