ResearchEncouraging science research, study among minorities

Published 19 December 2012

A study published last year, in which 83,000 grant applications from 2000 through 2006 were examined, found that African American scientists were far less likely therethan white scientists to obtain research money from the National Institute of Health (NIH); NIH is setting up a program to change that

NIH program is part of efforts to encourage science study by minority students // Source: northwestern.edu

A study published last year found that African-Americans scientists were far less likely than white scientists to obtain research money from the National Institute of Health (NIH).

As a result, the NIH has announced a group of initiatives which will help African-Americans and other ethnic and racial groups who have been ignored among medical researchers. The New York Times reports that the initiative will include a program that will test a grant review process in which all identifying information on the applicant will be removed. 

The program will also provide research opportunities and financial support for undergraduate and graduate students.

According to the NIH, the goal of the initiative is to attract more minorities into the field.

“It needed to go well beyond that,” “because even if we fixed that, it would still be the case that there would be a very distressingly low number of individuals from underrepresented groups who are part of what we’re trying to do in science,” Francis Collins, director of the NIH, told the Times.

The program will cost around $50 million a year to help 600 students.

The NIH formed a group of sixteen scientists which studied why minorities were not getting grants they applied for and why there were not more minorities in the field. The group presented its findings and recommendations earlier this year.

The group reviewed 83,000 grant applications from 2000 through 2006 and found that for every 100 applications handed in by white scientists, twenty-nine were awarded grants. That number fell to sixteeen for African-American scientists. The study was published in Science.

Dr. Reed Tuckson an executive vice president and the chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group, who was one of the group’s co-chairman, knows there will be obstacles in the future as the NIH could face sizable cuts in its budget like many other government programs.

“This is a heavy, laden issue which no matter which way you turn, someone is going to be irritated,” Tuckson told the Times.

The NIH will attempt to provide more research opportunities during the summer in order to attract more minority students and will also provide more money to professor so they can mentor and train students.

“That is the single strongest predictor of somebody deciding that that’s the career they want to pursue,” Dr. Collins said of mentored research.

“They’re talking about a multipronged approach, which I think is a smart approach,” Dr. Raynard Kington, president of Grinnell College in Iowa and a former deputy director of NIH, told the Times. “If they had just said, ‘We’re going to focus on review,’ I would have been deeply disappointed.”

 

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