Friday, August 19, 2011
9198: Black Medical Research Shortchanged.
FROM USA TODAY…
Study: Whites fare better than Blacks seeking medical grants
By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
Black researchers face only about two-thirds of the chance of white ones of receiving federal medical research dollars, even with equal training and research records, according to a new analysis of grant winners.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials responded that they view the finding as a serious problem and promised to take steps to make up for the shortfall.
“Not acceptable. This data is deeply troubling,” NIH chief Francis Collins said at a briefing. “The problem has been there all along. Now we know about it and have to do something.”
In the study released Thursday by the journal, Science, researchers led by Donna Ginther of the University of Kansas looked at 83,188 applications for new “principal investigator” — or heads of laboratories — grants from 40,069 researchers from 2000 to 2006.
These grants are the chief way for biomedical researchers to establish themselves. About 3,600 are awarded in a typical year.
In the study, the researchers compared success rates for whites relative to black, Asian and Hispanic grant applicants, who authored 21% of the applications. Adjusting for training and past scientific productivity, native Asian and Hispanic applicants had similar success rates as white grant applicants, about 29%. Yet, blacks only saw their grants funded about 17% of the time.
The “most troubling” aspect of the findings, says Kenneth Getz of the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development in Boston, is on efforts to recruit African Americans to join drug trials.
“There is a critical need to improve minority patient access to investigational treatments,” Getz says. Turning away black researchers from running studies, he adds, will, “ultimately play a major role in driving health disparities among minority patients.”
Blacks are far less likely than whites to become scientists, Collins says, and represent only 1.2% of the lab heads funded by the NIH.
“These data suggest we are failing even the ones who do make it,” Collins says.
The study was requested by the NIH in 2008 and headed by Grinnell College’s Raynard Kington, a former NIH acting director.
The analysis could not find any one area that explained the contrast. Black researchers were less likely to work at Top 30 universities or to resubmit applications after a rejection, Collins says, but the research also points to shortfalls in mentoring black applicants, the last step in the apprenticeship of most research students.
In a commentary with the study, Collins and the NIH’s Lawrence Taybak outline steps that the NIH will take to analyze whether racial bias was contaminating the panels that evaluate grant applications. “We have to contemplate that subtle bias may be happening,” Collins says. “We have a long way to go.”