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CSSS collaborators expand discussion about Black-white grant funding disparities

The grant review process at NIH yields systematic Black-white disparities in funding success. This observation has led to calls for reforms to the NIH review process in order to eliminate biases in the allocation of research grant funding.

CSSS core faculty Elena Erosheva, CSSS faculty affiliate Carole Lee, and Statistics PhD student Sheridan Grant recently investigated the NIH grant review process and identified where in the review process biases arose. Now, in a Lancet letter, they use the insights gained from their research to evaluate some of the proposed modifications to the review process.

One proposed reform is the use of a lottery system that would randomly fund applications that passed a preliminary peer review to remove the weakest applications. However, the UW researchers found that it is during the early stages of the review process (when preliminary criteria scores are generated) that inequalities arise, so the lottery approach would not eliminate the funding disparities. Another proposed reform would use a more detailed examination of each researcher's track record. However, existing differences between the two groups in the number of publications and the record of citations would perpetuate the existing funding disparities. Lee, Grant, and Erosheva conclude with a call for further examination of the review process in order to develop new reforms that would eliminate disparities and best support the research and careers of Black scientists.