Created by on 03/27/2012

Responding to a request for information issued by the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce, FASEB provided the agency with recommendations for improving the success of underrepresented minorities in science. The working group’s solicitation followed a report by Donna Ginther and colleagues showing that research grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by African-American applicants between 2000 and 2006 were funded at a lower rate than those submitted by white applicants, even after controlling for other predictors of success.
FASEB’s letter cited scientific training and quality mentoring as important factors for success in science. The Federation encouraged NIH to utilize its Science Education Partnership Award program, the R25 grant mechanism, and other appropriate mechanisms to support efforts aimed at expanding and enhancing inquiry-based learning opportunities for students at all levels.
FASEB also recommended that NIH work with educational institutions and professional societies to develop resources and programs to optimize mentoring relationships, encourage grantees to create a plan for mentoring graduate students and postdocs supported on their grants, and urge trainees to complete an individual development plan to help them set career and professional development goals. Citing a recent government study which found that there are 209 federal programs designed to improve education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, FASEB encouraged NIH to work with other federal agencies to establish or refine programs and policies aimed at increasing diversity in the research workforce.
While acknowledging the potential for bias in the peer review process, FASEB recommended against anonymizing applications, a policy change under consideration by the working group. If NIH removed all identifying information, it would make it impossible to assess an applicant’s training and experience.  
The Ginther also report found that limiting applicants to a single resubmission has had a disproportionately negative effect on black and Hispanic applicants. FASEB therefore recommended that NIH change the peer review system by eliminating the single resubmission policy as a way to improve the success of minority applicants.