Representatives from a network of women deans, chairs, and distinguished faculty in biomedical engineering are calling upon the National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies to address disparities in allocating support to Black researchers. The large group of scholars – including lead author Kelly Stevens, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington, and senior author Omalola Eniola-Adefeso, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan – published their views in a paper published in the journal Cell.
According to studies of National Institutes of Health research funding allocations, Black applicant award rates have stood at about 55 percent of that of white principal investigators of similar academic achievement. Despite internal reviews of the reasons behind this disparity, and promises to do better, the funding gap has continued.
Many universities review faculty members’ ability to support their research as part of decisions on tenure and promotions. In this way, NIH and other agencies’ funding disparities can jeopardize the careers of Black scientists. Without adequate research funding, these scientists can become discouraged and leave their professions, according to the authors.
The authors recommend:
- Explicitly state that racism persists in the U.S. research and must be expelled.
- Institute policies to immediately achieve racial funding equity.
- Make diversity score-driving criteria, prioritize diverse teams for funding, and diversify review panels.
- Train and empower NIH leadership, staff, and grant reviewers and recipients to recognize and stop racism.
The authors concluded by making a plea for support: “Scientific colleagues, let us each use our voices and actions to now overcome our profession’s racism and serve as antiracist agents of change.”