Scenes

In the past few weeks I have been present for the following conversation topics.

1) A tech professional working for the military complaining about some failure on the part of TSA to appropriately respect his SuperNotATerrorist pass that was supposed to let him board aircraft unmolested...unlike the the rest of us riff raff. I believe having his luggage searched in secondary was mentioned, and some other delays of minor note. This guy is maybe early thirties, very white, very distinct regional American accent, good looking, clean cut... your basic All-American dude.

2) A young guy, fresh out of the military looking to get on with one of the uniformed regional service squad types of jobs. This conversation involved his assertions that you had to be either a woman or an ethnic minority to have a shot at the limited number of jobs available in any given cycle. Much of the usual complaining about how this was unfair and it should be about "merit" and the like. Naturally this guy is white, clean cut, relatively well spoken.... perhaps not all that bright, I guess.

3) A pair of essentially the most privileged people I know- mid-adult, very smart, blonde, well educated, upper middle class, attractive, assertive, parents, rock of community type of women. Literally *everything* goes in these women's direction and has for most of their lives. They had the nerve to engage in a long running conversation about their respective minor traffic stops and tickets and how unfair it was. How the cops should have been stopping the "real" dangers to society at some other location instead of nailing them for running a stop sign a little too much or right on red-ing or whatever their minor ticket was for.

One of the great things about modern social media is that, done right, it is a relatively non-confrontational way to start to see how other people view things. For me the days of reading science blogs and the women-in-academics blogs were a more personal version of some of the coursework I enjoyed in my liberal arts undergraduate education. It put me in touch with much of the thinking and experiences of women in my approximate career. It occasionally allowed me to view life events with a different lens than I had previously.

It is my belief that social media has also been important for driving the falling dominoes of public opinion on gay marriage over the past decade or so. Facebook connections to friends, family and friends of the same provides a weekly? daily? reminder that each of us know a lot of gay folks that are important to us or at the very least are important to people that are important to us.

The relentless circulation of memes and Bingo cards, of snark and hilarity alike, remind each of us that there is a viewpoint other than our own.

And the decent people listen. Occasionally they start to see things the way other people do. At least now and again.

The so-called Black Twitter is similar in the way it penetrated the Facebook and especially Twitter timelines and daily RTs of so many non-AfricanAmerican folks . I have watched this develop during Ferguson and through BlackLivesMatter and after shooting after shooting after shooting of young black people that has occurred in the past two years.

During the three incidents that I mention, all I could think was "Wow, do you have any idea that this is the daily reality for many of your fellow citizens? And that it would hardly ever occur to non-white people to be so blindly outraged that the world should dare to treat them this way?" And "Wait, so are you saying it sucks to have a less-assured chance of gaining the career benefits you want due to the color of your skin or the nature of your dangly bits....it'll come to you in a minute".

This brings me to today's topic in academic science.

Nature News has an editorial on racial disparity in NIH grant awards. As a reminder the Ginther report was published in 2011. There are slightly new data out, generated from a FOIA request:

Pulmonologist Esteban Burchard and epidemiologist Sam Oh of the University of California, San Francisco, shared the data with Nature after obtaining them from the NIH through a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The figures show that under-represented minorities have been awarded NIH grants at 78–90% the rate of white and mixed-race applicants every year from 1985 to 2013

I will note that Burchard and Oh seem to be very interested in how the failure to include a diverse population in scientific studies may limit health care equality. So this isn't just about career disparity for these scientists, it is about their discipline and the health outcomes that result. Nevertheless, the point of these data are that under-represented minority PIs have less funding success than do white PIs. The gap has been a consistent feature of the NIH landscape through thick and thin budgets. Most importantly, it has not budged one bit in the wake of the Ginther report in 2011. With that said, I'm not entirely sure what we have learned here. The power of Ginther was that it went into tremendous analytic detail trying to rebut or explain the gross disparity with all of the usual suspect rationales. Trying....and failing. The end result of Ginther was that it was very difficult to make the basic disparate finding go away by considering other mediating variables.

After controlling for the applicant's educational background, country of origin, training, previous research awards, publication record, and employer characteristics, we find that black applicants remain 10 percentage points less likely than whites to be awarded NIH research funding.

The Ginther report used NIH grant data between FY 2000 and FY 2006. This new data set appears to run from 1985 to 2013, but of course only gives the aggregate funding success rate (i.e. the per-investigator rate), without looking at sub-groups within the under-represented minority pool. This leaves a big old door open for comments like this one:

Is it that the NIH requires people to state their race on their applications or could it be that the black applications were just not as good? Maybe if they just keep the applicant race off the paperwork they would be able to figure this out.

and this one:

I have served on many NIH study sections (peer review panels) and, with the exception of applicants with asian names, have never been aware of the race of the applicants whose grants I've reviewed. So, it is possible that I could have been biased for or against asian applicants, but not black applicants. Do other people have a different experience?

This one received an immediate smackdown with which I concur entirely:

That is strange. Usually a reviewer is at least somewhat familiar with applicants whose proposals he is reviewing, working in the same field and having attended the same conferences. Are you saying that you did not personally know any of the applicants? Black PIs are such a rarity that I find it hard to believe that a black scientist could remain anonymous among his or her peers for too long.

Back to social media. One of the tweeps who is, I think, pretty out as an underrepresented minority of science had this to say:


Not entirely sure it was in response to this Nature editorial but the sentiment fits. If AfricanAmerican PIs who are submitting grants to the NIH after the Ginther report was published in the late summer of 2011 (approximately 13 funding rounds ago, by my calendar) were expecting the kind of relief provided immediately to ESI PIs.....well, they are still looking in the mailbox.

The editorial

The big task now is to determine why racial funding disparities arise, and how to erase them. ...The NIH is working on some aspects of the issue — for instance, its National Research Mentoring Network aims to foster diversity through mentoring.

and the News piece:

in response to Kington’s 2011 paper, the NIH has allocated more than $500 million to programmes to evaluate how to attract, mentor and retain minority researchers. The agency is also studying biases that might affect peer review, and is interested in gathering data on whether a diverse workforce improves science.

remind us of the entirely toothless NIH response to Ginther.

It is part and parcel of the vignettes I related at the top. People of privilege simply cannot see the privileges they enjoy for what they are. Unless they are listening. Listening to the people who do not share the set of privileges under discussion.

I think social media helps with that. It helps me to see things through the eyes of people who are not like me and do not have my particular constellations of privileges. I hope even certain Twitter-refuseniks will come to see this one day.

90 responses so far

  • ucprof says:

    The Burchard and Oh data are for "NIH Grants". Does that mean R01 or any mechanism?

    The comment that the reviewer doesn't really know the race of the PI is reasonable for T and F series grants, but not for R series.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I suspect the ethnicity of those that are known and unknown are not evenly distributed for those reviewers that appear to live under a rock with respect to the more interpersonal aspects of their subfields.

  • Grumble says:

    The only grant I ever gave a score of "9" to was from a black PI who was an ESI I had never heard of. But I didn't know he was black until I ran across his profile well after the grant review was over.

  • Grumble says:

    Which is not to say that I think that his being black somehow had something to do with the poor score despite my blindness to his race. It was more that he made every newbie mistake in the book, despite access to excellent mentors at his institution (whom he clearly didn't take advantage of).

  • shrew says:

    Grumble:

    Is it more plausible that this ESI investigator looked at all the "excellent mentors" around their institution and said "F that, I can do it better", or that they felt discouraged from pursuing feedback from these "mentors" by a lack of interest or support? Or even that as an ESI, this investigator wasn't even aware of the degree to which these "mentors" could advise on how to improve an application, because of previous poor mentorship?

    The latter two problems, the discomfort that comes from seeking mentorship from someone who may not be comfortable with you and is discouraging, and the lack of experience that comes from subpar mentorship, can be career sinkers. And they have nothing to do with ability on the part of the applicant, and everything to do with whether the applicant has been treated like a second class citizen and internalized those experiences. Which happens with depressing frequency.

  • eeke says:

    What shrew said. Mentorship is a 2-way street. You ask people for help, and they can be dismissive for many reasons. Usually, it comes across that they're too busy, but it can also be that they don't feel comfortable working with you for whatever reason, even if you have similar research interests. I experienced this as an asst. prof. at my former institution.

  • Laffer says:

    This reminds me of Leslie Vosshall's complaint of insufficient women applicants for TT jobs at Rockefeller. I am personally fine with quotas or any efforts to diversify the applicant pool, grants, jobs, whatever. We want them, but it feels like we aren't allowed to look for them.

    We have special TT lines that can open up if a candidate can be identified as an under-represented minority. Would it be inappropriate to emphasize a candidate's status in recommendation letters? Or a back-channel phone call? Would a minority feel uncomfortable or unhappy knowing their mentor would even discuss it in the same breath as the rest of their work? Or getting or taking a job offer because of it?

  • drugmonkey says:

    To push in the direction Shrew is pointing us, I will say that in the course of blogging this career stuff I have on more than one occasion heard from junior faculty who were terrified to ask their senior colleagues for advice on anything. They seemed to feel quite sincerely that they could not show any weakness and had to act like they had it all handled. So they ask some random internet clown instead. This, btw, in my limited experience has very little to do with race and everything to do with high-expectations environments.

    Be that as it may, given that minority faculty often feel (quite justifiably from what I saw go down in my graduate department) that significant numbers of colleagues see them as an unworthy affirmative action hire, you can see how this might be a problem for many URM faculty.

  • gmp says:

    A good representation of what it means to be blind to own privilege:

    http://idealist4ever.com/this-comic-will-forever-change-the-way-you-look-at-privilege/

  • drugmonkey says:

    yep that is a good one for sure GMP.

  • The Other Dave says:

    My guess is that the racial disparity is not due to racism during the grant proposal review. I think underrepresented minorities are fucked long before then.

    A historically black or hispanic-serving university? That's not a great pedigree.

    I don't really know him... Haven't seen him at meetings (because I only hang around with white guys like me)

    All the [old white] leaders in the field are not where he is. He's not really in a great 'environment'.

    And the unkindest cut off all...

    Hmmmmm.... you'd think with all these affirmative action programs, he'd have been more productive....

  • Grumble says:

    "Mentorship is a 2-way street. You ask people for help, and they can be dismissive for many reasons. "

    In the case of the grant I reviewed, the PI actually had letters from some of the senior faculty at his institution, promising to help him out in ways that were not well defined (a classic newbie mistake right there). The contrast between the number of supportive letters from BSDs and the number of grantsmanship errors was striking, and I told the applicant that what he needed to do was get those mentors to critique his grants, not write letters. If those mentors were dismissive before, I'm hoping that when he showed them what I wrote, they would wake up and realize they failed him. But I think it's equally possible that they weren't dismissive, but the PI just didn't ask them the right questions.

  • Ola says:

    Teh Twitts are good for two* things:
    (1) Keeping track of science happenings
    (2) Keeping in touch with racial happenings which I would otherwise not know about because the mainstream media does not report them and I live in a predominantly white area in the northeast. Seriously, #FF @deray already!
    The rest is just noise.

    (*well, three if you count trolling @BanditoKat)

  • enginoob says:

    "But I think it's equally possible that they weren't dismissive, but the PI just didn't ask them the right questions." When you're part of the club people help by telling you what you need to know whether or not you 'ask the right questions.'

    I've often wondered if I would have better reviews if I used a male nick name. I haven't tried it, but using my initials and referring to myself completely gender neurally has coincided with better grant scores.

  • odyssey says:

    I held out a longish time before jumping on the twits. Now I wonder why I waited. If you pay attention you learn a lot about people. All kinds of people.

    And Ola, I would add to your list. I've made friends through the twits. And established a collaboration. The twits are rich in possibilities.

  • drugmonkey says:

    TOD- don't be so quick to blame pipeline as the *only* problem. How many times do reviewers overlook some obvious deficit in an application? Often. What drives this? Subtle factors of confidence that allow the reviewers to dismiss deficits and promote the strengths.

  • The Other Dave says:

    DM -- yea, but do you really think anyone is thinking 'Hmmmmmm... there are some flaws here, but I think he can pull it off because he's white....'? No, I think they're thinking 'Hmmmmm there are some flaws here, but I think he can pull it off because he's got great training and is in a great place surrounded by impressive colleagues...'

    The pipeline is everything. And even the best intentioned among us reinforce disparities whenever we judge a grant based on anything other than the project as described.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Are you really unfamiliar with implicit association findings?

  • eeke says:

    @ Grumble - I was guilty of the same thing (getting letters from people and writing shitty grants). I my case, I did ask for help with the writing, but it amounted to correcting grammatical mistakes, etc, but not getting sound advice needed for crafting specific aims, etc. I always thought it was that these people didn't NEED to have superb writing. They could submit something written in crayon on toilet paper, and it would still get funded. Anyway, the lack of support from colleagues is only part of the problem.

    I did get back a comment similar to yours - criticizing the more senior people for not doing more. Thanks for that, but it had no effect.

  • Newbie PI says:

    Something that makes getting help a little easier is having a formal program where an administrator from your department or someone in charge of the grant-reviewing committee finds internal reviewers for you. It is really hard for a new PI (or probably any PI) to repeatedly ask the same people to critique their grants over and over again. We're submitting so many things that it quickly starts to feel like we've already cashed in all our favors and used up any goodwill we had coming in. This is why a formal program (where everyone is expected to participate) really helps. If you don't have something like this in your college/department, I highly recommend it.

  • dsks says:

    "...the NIH has allocated more than $500 million to programmes to evaluate how to attract, mentor and retain minority researchers."

    $500M!!!! To hell with that, I'd be fine with a cheap and direct affirmative action fix at the PO level and be done with it. Maybe a fudge factor applied to grant scores from underrepresented minorities rather than a quota per se, but something. We already know that distinguishing between apps at the top end these days is a Magic 8-ball gig anyway, and when averaged out against the vastly greater number of non-underrepresented ethnic group(s) in the game the charge that it's unfair to the rest of us will have little teeth. I can't think of anything more ridiculous that the NIH spending that kinda of money - at a time like this - for a lengthy exercise in hand wringing that I guarantee will not crystallize into any sort of action whatsoever.

    The causes of the disparity are, as TOD points out, likely to be deeper and more complex than just individual discrimination in study section alone (although DM's right that this likely occurs too), and consequently much of the solution will be outside the scope of the NIH's mission. What we do appear to have is clear evidence of discrimination, whether conscious or institutional, and so the simplest response is to just bloody correct for it for now, and let society figure out the deeper problem in the meantime.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Well put, dsks

  • The Other Dave says:

    @DM -- I am very familiar with implicit bias. And yes, that's a problem. But like dsks said, chalking the disparity up to racism/sexism (conscious or not) totally underestimates the scope of what needs to be fixed, and how long it will take.

    Have you ever been influenced by where someone got their degree? Yale, Harvard, UCSF, MIT... oooooooh, impressive, right?

    Meharry Medical College, Florida A&M, Alabama A&M, Morgan State... WTF are these?

    Those are historically black universities, and award a disproportionate number of degrees to African Americans in STEM fields. If you have ever judged someone by where they got their degree, you probably contributed to racial disparity.

    OK, so let's say you're aware of that, and when you read the names of those historically black colleges you keep your pedigree bias in check.

    How about Shanghai Jiao Tong University? Tsinghua? Fudan? Beijing Normal? WTF are those? Oh, those are some of the top research universities in China.

    But that's say that YOU don't worry about where someone got their degree. How about your colleagues? Have you ever thought... "Hmmmmmmm... this new investigator comes from a really good lab. I'm sure he'll pull this off..." I'm sure that you're aware that 'really good labs' get LOTS of grad student and postdoc applications from all over the world. Do you think any of those PIs might preferentially select applicants from 'good' schools or programs that they're already familiar with? Of course they do. So when you think at all about the lab that a person came from, you're probably contributing to the disparity.

    At this point you're probably wondering whether I'm saying that there's no way to use any indicator of applicant 'quality' without risking bias. Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. ANY aspect of funding that relies on the 'person, not project' means that biases against certain groups of people will come into play. Isn't that obvious? The only way around it is for reviewers to focus exclusively on the project. Not the person. Not the environment.

    Of course you're going to argue that this is silly. It's impossible to judge feasibility without considering the training, environment, and track record of the PI. Or is it?

  • The Other Dave says:

    p.s. I chose those universities because according to the NIH's data, the disparity is biggest for blacks and Asians.

    And why aren't you asking about the process by which NIH chooses reviewers? Doesn't this seem like an obvious think to look at?

  • Grumble says:

    "Have you ever thought... "Hmmmmmmm... this new investigator comes from a really good lab. I'm sure he'll pull this off...""

    No. I don't think I've ever made assumptions based on where someone comes from rather than what they themselves have accomplished. At least not consciously.

  • Noncoding Arenay says:

    Genuine question: when we say minorities, who exactly are we talking about here?

    Once, a foreign non-white postdoc (working in the US) that I knew was wondering whether she was eligible to apply for NIH minority-focused K grants. She was essentially told no by the PO because minority meant domestic blacks/hispanics. So, are foreigner non-white "minorities" part of this discussion? And are they part of the data that NIH analyzes? TOD says that "....according to the NIH's data, the disparity is biggest for blacks and Asians". If "foreigner minorities" are not really counted as minorities, then how are large numbers of foreigner (US resident) PIs who apply for NIH grants included in this discussion/analyses when there may be significant implicit biases working against them too?

  • NewPI- stunned says:

    Open Mike wants input on exactly this topic. There's even and official NIH request for information (NOT-OD-16-027)...

    http://nexus.od.nih.gov/all/2015/11/24/how-would-you-address-diversity-in-the-physician-scientist-workforce/

    Ready, go!

  • Dusanbe says:

    Focus on "grantsmanship" is partly to blame. "Grantsmanship" encompasses a set of linguistic and communication styles that are set by the dominant majority a.k.a. white Americans. Foreigners can pick up on these conventions like a second language and become pretty good at following this style, but for Americans from URM groups, they shouldn't be expected to master a different variety of their own native language. They are just as American as anybody, yet their grants are being judged according to how assimilated they are into the larger White academic culture in this country. Which is the same issue they face in pretty much every other facet of their lives.

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    Oh FFS, someone just invoked a talent disparity.

  • drugmonkey says:

    TOD- have you ever talked to URM folks about why/why not they are considering attending / applying to various places for grad training? Asked hot property URM faculty candidates about their decision space?

    IME, "comfort" is a huge problem for diversity recruiting. I've been on a committee or two in my time and this comes up *constantly*. From the prospective candidates. This has been part of what brings me to my advocacy of naked face diversity by any means necessary, because we need to improve the "pull" side of the equation. This is what will sustain the pipeline....making the other side look attractive and doable. Stuff it full without this and you just get higher pressure leaking.

  • The Other Dave says:

    @DM: My institution is fairly effective when it comes to promoting diversity (we are the *only* Federally-designated minority-serving R1 institution east of the Mississippi). And I have played some reasonable administrative role in promoting this. So, yea, of course I routinely talk to people about their choices.

    The comic that gmp posted a link to captures it nicely. Look at it again:
    http://idealist4ever.com/this-comic-will-forever-change-the-way-you-look-at-privilege/

    Especially look at the panel about 'expectations'. That's the first thing. When you're the first person in the family to even attend college, it doesn't matter so much whether it's first or second tier. Cost and proximity to family are more important. I remember when I was in grad school, my grandpa was generally worried about why I was still in school. He thought something must be wrong with me, because it was taking me so long to graduate. Values are different.

    And then, yea, as you said "comfort" is huge. The hiring institution is not the only place looking for a 'good fit'. I turned down a faculty position at Yale medical school to take my current job, for a couple reasons. 1. I didn't like the 'feel' of that place and honestly didn't care so much about the Yale brand. 2. I wanted to make a difference in the world. The department head of the place that hired me explained how, yea, it would be easier at Yale. But I wouldn't be able to make as much of a difference there. Over a decade later, I realize how right he was. Another grant or paper isn't going to make me feel good about my life when I'm on my deathbed some day. But being able to reach deep into communities that Yale is barely aware of and make a big difference? That feels increasingly way better. Plus, I'm surrounded by people who think like this. Genuinely nice people. They're not just successful assholes stabbing each other in the back for a third R01.

    So... yea... choices. What's annoying is those choices being used by people with different values to judge whether or not my project is good or not. Fuck you and your fancy pedigrees and values. I don't subconsciously penalize you because your parents were rich and connected enough that probably only had to work a quarter as hard as me for everything in your life. I don't discount your fancy paper because you came from the big shot lab that provided half the editorial staff for that journal. I don't penalize you for your easy life. Don't penalize me for my harder one. Just decide whether my project is scientifically solid. Nothing else is relevant.

    Or... whatever. The disparity in percent of grants funded is disturbing. But the disparity in PI numbers is not so much a worry to me. Maybe people should consider that not everyone wants to desperately spend their life struggling to suck from the NIH teat. Some people have struggled enough already in life, and would rather have a *real* job. There are lots of things that make people happy. Respect that.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Again these data are funding *rate* which means out of those PIs who were voluntarily seeking funding.

  • drugmonkey says:

    TOD- are you disagreeing with me that visible examples of success create a positive draw on the pipeline?

  • jmz4gtu says:

    "Well put, dsks"
    -Seconded. A direct bump to address the disparity is probably the only way to equalize, given the multitude of possible reasons for the effect (language, training, pedigree, etc).

    That being said:
    Could the NIH institute a tiered review system where project info is given first, and biosketches and other PI information is only made available if they clear a certain score (say top 25%)?
    Or do we think the reviewers' intimate knowledge of the field would make identification of the PI from the proposal (which would of course include background) all too easy?

    This would alleviate any potential bias by race, but also on pedigree and lab size, two things that seem to play outsized roles in grants' scores. It also cuts down on the amount of material to review. Focus on the exciting science first *then* pick the people you think can actually pull it off.

  • drugmonkey says:

    It is not possible to blind NIH grant review.

  • The Other Dave says:

    "TOD- are you disagreeing with me that visible examples of success create a positive draw on the pipeline?"

    No, not at all. Role models are *huge*. Our best programs start near-peer mentorship in high school and continue it up through grad school and into assistant professorship. By 'near peer', I mean 'one step above on the career ladder': College students mentor high school students; grad students mentor undergrads; and then tenured faculty mentor untenured. The 'near peer' aspect makes a big difference.

    But the most important thing I want to point out is your question reveals some very damaging biases. Your definition of 'success' is not necessarily the only definition of success. Do you think that minorities outside of the traditional Ivy Leagues are not a success? Do you think that someone teaching at a primarily undergraduate college is not a success? As soon as you start to define 'success', you are imposing a hierarchical judgement scheme that necessarily penalizes people who don't share your same values (or style, or background, or...)

    I genuinely believe that you're a nice guy, DM. But be careful about imposing *your* values. Perhaps the problem is not so much that there aren't enough people like you. Perhaps you need to be more like them.

    Does this make sense? Consider that you might sound like the guys in this picture wondering why their group isn't bigger...
    http://goinglikesixty.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/loudmouthgolfpants.jpg

  • Eli Rabett says:

    PO can give a bump to whomsoever they wish even @ NIH. Make diversity a point of evaluation for them and majic can happen. Give them access to an additional pile of money for same and same.

  • drugmonkey says:

    My values? We're talking about people who have applied to the NIH for funding. Not limited to Ivy League or anything else, really. Self-selected applicants. It is hardly a stretch to think there may be other people who would like to be successful in this category.

  • SidVic says:

    Direct bump? What precisely are we discussing? - 5% on the percentile score originating from review.

    The graph shown lumps Asians with unrepresented and mixed race (?) with whites. Will asians receive this bump? Or only blacks, and only pure african admixtures (ie. dark skinned)
    It may be more practical to just directly handicap white men.

    A persistent academic achievement gap between asians, whites and blacks exist through out K1-12. I really don't know why anyone would expect that to close at the higher echelons of science.

    SaltyS "Oh FFS, someone just invoked a talent disparity." Is this Taboo?

  • Skeptic says:

    I find it curious that in these discussions of the lower funding success of black scientists, the black-white IQ gap is never mentioned. The black-white IQ gap has remained stubbornly persistent at around one standard deviation ever since IQ testing began. Given that blacks enjoy the benefits of affirmative action from college to graduate school and, ultimately, to getting hired as a professor or other research position, there is every reason to expect that the black-white IQ gap remains among NIH grant applicants, though both groups are likely to have IQs well above the means of their respective cohorts. The IQ gap could easily explain the disparity. Yes, past productivity (publication number and quality and citations) matter, but so does the grant application itself. And those with higher intelligence are more likely to propose projects that are more creative or significant, or their grants may simply be more well-written, either in terms of clarity or how well the project is sold.

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    SidVic--Yes, there is an achievement gap. Is this due to systematic advantages and disadvantages that stack the deck for and against certain groups, or is this because one group has lower innate ability?

  • […] has a series of vignettes he uses to launch a discussion of privilege and disparities in NIH funding. The first of these […]

  • The Other Dave says:

    @DM: I think I still haven't explained well what I am trying to get at. By 'values', I don't just mean the 'desire to obtain NIH funding'. Obviously anyone who applies for NIH funding wants to be funded.

    Have you looked at that cartoon that gmp posted a link to? The whole cartoon is about contrasting value systems. Academic standards, school versus working to help family, family versus work, etc.

    I think that differences between value systems affect funding rates, because reviewers don't just score applications based on the project, they also score applications based on the applicant. And they judge the applicant based on their history. And their history is affected by their values. Since the NIH system is set up to reward certain value systems (high priority for academics, 'brand name' school attendance, being part of the 'in club' e.g. pedigree, and as others have pointed out here -- writing/presentation style), I think this contributes to racial disparities.

    You created this whole blog to explain NIH-funded biomedical science career 'culture' to your readers, right? In doing so, you recognized that being a part of this 'culture' is important for success. Maybe I should have used the world 'culture' instead of values. I'm talking about pretty much the same thing you've been talking about for a decade in this blog. Except you focused mainly on new investigators. Now we're talking about Asians and African Americans.

    How do we fix the racial disparity in funding rates? Do we train Asians and blacks to be like typical white biomedical scientists? Do we just need to bring them 'up' to our standards? Well, besides how sort of racist and insulting that is, I don't think it will be completely effective.

    I don't think training minorities to be like white East coast academics will be effective because it's a bit too late. I think it helps to have been part of the dominant 'NIH-style' culture for a long time. Someone from a historically black college and no-name postdoc lab will have a harder time getting funded -- even if their proposed project is just as brilliant. You can't 'train' someone's history away.

    I think even good well-meaning people contribute to the racial disparities. For example, DM, you have said that good panelists know everyone in the field. It's part of your value system that investigators know other investigators, right? But how do you think it affects scores when an applicant is *not* known? Do you think this helps early stage investigators? Or applicants from outside the circle-jerk of high-profile labs? Your values help create a system where 'known = good'. Which is not so great for outsiders, which is by definition what *underrepresented* minorities are.

    So what do we do, if the goal is to remove disparities? I think a good first step is to remove (or at least minimize) all scoring criteria that are not directly related to the quality of the project. Yes, people will scream about how they can't judge a proposal in the absence of a biosketch or 'environment' scoring criterion. But c'mon -- we can judge new investigators fine, right? And is Harvard really an asset if you just share a basement room in some outbuilding in a dysfunctional department worrying all the time about how to pay your rent because you have a 100% soft money appointment?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Ahh. So it sounds like perhaps you are bleeding over into how to fix study sections to break their inherent self-reinforcing conservatism about what is the best science? On this we probably agree. But I still say the starting point is to pick up grants so as to align success rates. Then we can move on to fixing "the real problem".

  • The Other Dave says:

    Yes, obviously having a more generous pay line for underrepresented groups will narrow the funding gap. But as you say, it won't remove the problem. The same thing happened with new investigators. NIH worked to fix the numbers, but not the problem. In fact, I think the problem for new investigators is worse then ever. We can't keep papering over widening cracks.

    I agree with "...self-reinforcing conservatism about what is the best science" but I don't think that people always talk about the 'best science'. Sometimes I think they confuse 'best science' with 'best people'. That's where we get into problems.

    We've all been too relaxed when it comes to scientific fascism. We've got to stop celebrating science celebrities. Idolizing hotshots is no different than idolizing glamourmagz. Let's get back to focusing on the ideas and results. Not the people.

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    In total agreement TOD. I worry that NIH is going the other way though with people-based initiatives like MIRA. Which I would guess will only amplify these disparities.

  • The Other Dave says:

    MIRA? Oh, yea... 'Slush fund for people we like'...

    Honestly, I would happily punch the jackass who first suggested that, and any administrators who ever helped make it a reality. And you know what? Whenever I see it (or any other buddy grant) on anyone's CV I am going to count it *against* them. Let's see how those fuckers do when the wind blows against them for a change. THAT is how we change the system, my friends.

  • jmz4gtu says:

    "And you know what? Whenever I see it (or any other buddy grant) on anyone's CV I am going to count it *against* them. Let's see how those fuckers do when the wind blows against them for a change."
    -That is probably an over-reaction.

    "We can't keep papering over widening cracks."
    -Well, the ESI problem and this problem stem from different sources, obviously. I would argue that increasing the number of minority investigators that win awards, and thereby increasing their representation (both in the professoriate and the study section), will have a positive effect on the root cause of the R01 achievement gap. A more diverse study section, will use more varied metrics for success and achievement, which will allow for more equal success rates.
    This isn't really true for ESI, so your comparison is a bit flawed.

    @skeptic
    " The IQ gap could easily explain the disparity. "
    - IMO, grant-writing has less to do with intelligence and more to do with communicating effectively and clearly, being mentored in the process, and being savvy preliminary data. I doubt a dozen or so points in IQ differential, even if it reflects a real difference in intelligence (and not a socio-economic bias of the test, which is more likely), is going to make a major impact on the ability to write a good grant.

    @DM
    Do you know much correction were they able to do for native language? I note they say "Asian" instead of Asian-American. The former group's lack of English language skills could easily account for the gap in funding success rates. You've seen how nitpicky people can be regarding typos and language mistakes.

  • Skeptic says:

    Communicating effectively and clearly, which has a lot to do with IQ, is exactly the point I made. Bias in IQ tests is no longer a tenable argument and has not been for a long time. The black-white IQ gap is greatest on those tests that are least culturally loaded.

  • drugmonkey says:

    jmz4gtfo- Ginther analyzed Asians separately by domestic and non-domestic doctoral granting institution iirc.

    Oh and, certain types of trolls really shouldn't be fed.

  • Dusanbe says:

    "Communicating effectively and clearly" - again, this is a big source of cultural bias. What this means in effect, as far as grant review goes, is "sounding like a White male". It is not an objective, impartial criterion.

  • Skeptic says:

    Oh DM, is that the best you can do? I do have to give you credit for not immediately deleting my comment. However, you need to realize that it eventually becomes very difficult to defend an Earth-centered universe, and those who do look increasingly foolish.

    'There is not a truth existing which I fear or would wish unknown to the whole world.' --Thomas Jefferson.

  • Skeptic says:

    Dusanbe, are you serious? A lot of good science comes out of Japan, China, and South Korea. Do you think grant reviewers there award grants based on how well they imitate white males? Do you think Asians in the United States are awarded grants at the same rate as whites because they do such great imitations of white males?

  • Dusanbe says:

    Grant reviewers in Japan award funding based on how well applicants imitate Japanese males. Grant reviewers in Korea award funding based on how well applicants imitate Korean males. Absolutely. Asians and many other foreigners who have immigrated will learn (assimilate into) the predominant culture. But why would or should URMs be forced to assimilate into anything when they haven't even left their own country? Ironically, I would bet that URMs from the US would likely be treated more fairly in grant review as immigrants in Japan, Korea, etc.

  • Skeptic says:

    ???? What the???? Well, Japan has a zero immigration policy. I doubt Korea and China are much more welcoming, but I have not checked. If you have any data on how well black scientists fare in the far East, please let me know. East Asian immigrants in the U.S. were at one point URMs in everything, and yet they did eventually manage to imitate competent scientists (and you name whatever else). Why don't blacks and browns do the same thing, since they are doing that in their home countries, right?

  • drugmonkey says:

    I wonder if we could possibly draw any lessons from historical examples in which inherent disability was claimed to justify disparate results when the source was good old bigotry.

    http://drugmonkey.scientopia.org/2009/03/23/major-jack-willie-and-warren/

  • Spike Lee says:

    @Dusanbe: Where you see a problem, I see a clear solution: If reviewers are turfing grants from URMs because of "linguistic and communication styles", then the funding gap could be closed by focused training, mentoring, and practice in this domain. I see this as being a far easier task than, say, subduing the deeply entrenched cultural/linguistic bias that the (largely white) reviewer corps brings to the process.

    The fact is that nobody writes a good, clear grant the first time around. Nobody. Even white native English speakers struggle to learn grantsmanship. I can appreciate that this is a harder struggle if you are non-white, or a non-native speaker. Yet, it is something that CAN be taught, practiced, and mastered with enough time and attention.

  • jmz4gtu says:

    "jmz4gtfo"-Freudian slip or subtle(ish) hint? And yes, I see now.

    "What this means in effect, as far as grant review goes, is "sounding like a White male". It is not an objective, impartial criterion."
    -this sounds like a cop out. It means knowing your audience. If I give a talk to a bunch of school children, I choose one style, if I'm writing a grant, I choose another. Learning how to communicate effectively means being adaptable in delivering your message. If you can't do that, you might not understand your material well enough.

    Of course, this still takes training and mentoring, some of which might be background specific. So having mentors that understand that is probably useful.

  • Spike Lee says:

    And as a side note, this discussion bring to mind this essay (actually a book review for a dictionary) from David Foster Wallace. The relevant bit begins around footnote 39:

    http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/DFW_present_tense.html

  • […] More on this racial bias at NIH from drugmonkey. So spot-on it hurts. […]

  • Pat says:

    Why is it impossible to blind NIH grant review? Or at least to provide some level of blinding, as The American Naturalist is now doing for peer review of papers? They realized that authors might include identifying material in their manuscripts, but decided that the publication should blind their own procedures and leave the level of identification desired up to the authors.

    Since people need to be trained in how to write grant proposals anyway, changing the format to train them in how to write blinded grant proposals doesn't seem impossible to me. But I am not involved in NIH grant review, and would appreciate being enlightened about the process.

  • CD0 says:

    OK, Skeptic, there are a few things you have to read in more detail before making certain statements:

    Firstly, the eugenist view that differences in IQ tests designed by people of a particular ethnicity to evaluate individuals in their very specific cultural background (and only those who take the test at a restricted number of schools) reflect differences in the intelligence of hugely variable ethnic groups with variable access to education and different socio-economic status is only accepted by the bigots at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard (e.g., the thesis committee of the infamous Richwine, too racist even for the Heritage Foundation). Who by the way have zero background in Neuroscience or any other biological disciplines…This particular work was of course never published (peer-reviewed) but at least it was approved (shame on them) by 3 Harvard professors. Besides this piece of bigotry, I do not know of any peer-reviewed article illustrating differences in IQ that are independent of cultural, educational or socio-economic background. Period.

    Secondly, you talk about a mix “blacks and browns”. It is unclear what you mean by that but the original study of Ghinter and colleagues showed significant differences only for African-Americans. Not Hispanics or other URMs, if that’s what you call “browns”.

    Thirdly, what the study of Ghinter and colleagues found is that African-Americans got significantly lower scores compared to individuals of other ethnicities THAT HAVE A SIMILAR RECORD OF ACHIEVEMENTS. These people were not stupid or failed because they were not smart enough to get there. In fact, many of them succeeded in circumstances that would have been likely insurmountable by many individuals with similar achievements coming from a privileged background.

    The problem has nothing to do with IQs. There have been two great arguments providing potential explanations in this Discussion:
    1-Lack of pedigree.
    2-Cultural differences in crafting a proposal, writing a rebuttal, etc.

    These are good points to start a discussion, but assuming that people who are different from us or did not have access to our schools and competitive backgrounds are not qualified because they are not smart enough is a very serious matter.

  • Skeptic says:

    I don't know what all your babble about Richwine and the Kennedy school of government at Harvard is all about, but the literature on race differences in IQ is vast, and btw, not controversial among experts in the field. The only controversial part is whether any of the difference has a genetic component. You state that "IQ tests [are] designed by people of a particular ethnicity to evaluate individuals in their very specific cultural background." Yes, IQ tests were and are designed predominantly by whites. Curious then that East Asians consistently outscore whites on those tests, isn't it? If you would like to learn more, I suggest you read the Bell Curve or "Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability." Psychology, Public Policy, and Law (2005) 11: 235-94.
    You state that: "Besides this piece of bigotry, I do not know of any peer-reviewed article illustrating differences in IQ that are independent of cultural, educational or socio-economic background. Period." The only explanation for that is that you have not looked. The well-known Minnesota Twins adoption study showed that blacks adopted into white middle class families develop IQs characteristic of their race, not their adoptive parents. The same is true for East Asians adopted into white families. You can find references to the primary literature in the book and review article I cite above.
    Regarding your second point, you are correct. I was careless in saying blacks and browns. I think I did that in response to another person using the term URMs, which besides blacks, usually means Hispanics. I am aware that Ginther showed no difference between white and Hispanic funding rates, which if anything shows that the black-white disparity is not due to bias. Of course, keep in mind that the term "Hispanic" is extremely broad and even includes people native to Spain.
    Regarding your third point, Ginther apparently corrected for research productivity (Publication number, quality, citations, etc.), although how they actually did this is difficult to extract from their methods. Typically, in such a large study, the raw data is made available so others can attempt to replicate the results. As far as I know this was not done. Regardless, even if Ginther did properly correct for all the variables they state, IQ could still explain the disparity, since this would likely lead to higher quality grantsmanship.
    Sorry to have to throw a giant reality turd into your serene pool of white privilege and systemic oppression.

  • CD0 says:

    "The well-known Minnesota Twins adoption study showed that blacks adopted into white middle class families develop IQs characteristic of their race, not their adoptive parents"

    That was exactly my point. Socio-economic inequality and different cultural backgrounds are (some of) the main reasons for differences in IQ tests. Thank you very much.

    However, again, Ghinter's study underscores differences among African-Americans and other ethnicities with a comparable record of achievements (e.g., publications), and therefore they are unlikely to have anything to do with IQs. If you think that it was an easy ride for the few URMs that reach certain faculty positions, I suggest that you get out of your suburban bubble.

    There is never an excess of methodological detail, but Ghinter's is the only work where these variables have been considered. By the individuals who have primary access to the data, which are nevertheless accessible through the freedom of information act to anybody who does not believe in their analysis.

    Most importantly, when you cite Murray's The Bell Curve as if it was a peer-reviewed study published in a scientific journal, I doubt that you have much of a scientific background.

  • Simon says:

    Skeptic, i too have read with interest the endless handwringing about disparities on DM ever since the Geinther report. Well well, Virginia o whatever could account for the lower success rate. Systemic bias and and the MAN may well account for it but one would think that a talent disparity would come up?? . Taboo? Of course. Just note what happened to Jwatson and LSummers to understand why this may be the case.

    IQ is highly correlated to success in college and career success. I am unaware that IQ and NIH grant success has been directly examined but .... lets face it - It would be shocking if it did not correlate. CDO you confuse the issue. The twin studies correct for nurture and point to nature (innate) differences. That IQ differences exist is not in dispute. WhiteIQ =100 (by definition), Asian-106, AA-85 (as skeptic notes 1SD), subsaharan african-70, Australian Aborigine-60, ashkenazi jew-115. Remember these are averages and don't speak to any given individual. The definition of racism is to believe that these differences are inherent (innate or genetic). Thomas Sowell argues that IQ is more plastic. He cites IQ scores from Irish immigrants and their increase due to nutrition and socioeconomic factors. My point would be that at the level of NIH grant success it doesn't really matter whether it is nature (racist) or nurture (liberal) . Well meaning liberals like DM do no one favors by pushing people into positions in which they don't have the intellectual firepower to compete. After all we are just discussing a few thousand jobs involving the NIH grant game - not a significant portion of the labor pool.
    Skeptic is correct in his assertions. Look it up.

  • Skeptic says:

    CD0, you sound a bit incoherent. Try again when you are sober.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I actually agree with Skeptic that there is a vast scientific literature on IQ differences in US subpopulations. Also that black populations tend to score lower than white ones. Yes with a host of mediating variables controlled for. Read the Bell Curve to find the cites to primary literature threads...I trust you to see the *interpretive* slant for what it is.

    The first error Skeptic is making has to do with central tendencies of distributors versus the tails when we are dealing with +1, +2SD professions, range restriction and the error of assuming individual placement in a distribution from the general shape of it.

    There is also an argument to be made that when the selection is more severe for one subpopulation over another, the surviving individuals may be more talented within their apparent distribution than are individuals within the less-selected population. "Twice as good as a man to be considered half as good" is the punchier way to say it.

    I also think this has essentially zero to do with grant score differences given what I have experienced as a grant reviewer, grant applicant and student of the NIH funding game. Also as a member of a profession in which one can observe examples of long term career outcome for people who start in grad school with their various apparent differences in smarts (e.g. GRE scores, first year classes, etc).

    While I think IQ matters given that all else is approximately equal, all else is never equal.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Possibly of interest to this discussion.....

    http://www.shakesville.com/2013/08/occams-big-paisley-tie.html

  • Skeptic says:

    CD0, Btw, I meant to say the Minnesota transracial adoption study, not twin. Perhaps that was the source of your confusion.

    "There is also an argument to be made that when the selection is more severe for one subpopulation over another, the surviving individuals may be more talented within their apparent distribution than are individuals within the less-selected population."

    Though you don't say it, DM, I strongly suspect the subpopulation that you think experiences the more severe selection is black. Given the aggressive affirmative action programs that blacks benefit from at every rung of their climb up the science (or other) career ladder (ending with R01 applications), it is very difficult to see how you can maintain such a view.

  • CD0 says:

    "I meant to say the Minnesota transracial adoption study, not twin"
    Yes, thanks. It was confusing indeed and it seems that the most important control was missing in that particular work.

    I have never questioned that there are differences in IQ across different ethnic groups. That is a fact. What I say and re-iterate is that IQ tests are designed by a particular ethnic group to test the abilities of their own people, and that differences in socio-economic and educational background are decisive for overall scores. In addition, only selected members of that particular ethnic group take the test, typically at selected schools. I am surprised that this became a contentious issue, really.

    The Bell Curve is a non-peer-reviewed book with an obvious bias in the selection of references and even more biased interpretations that in any case have nothing to do with the few URMs that reach academic faculty positions, as implied by DM's latest post.

    Regarding how what Skeptic keeps calling "blacks" get an easy ride until they reach a faculty position, I believe that a visit to inner city schools and neighborhoods will eliminate this delusional thought. It is quite the opposite and should be obvious for such an abstemious individual.

    I presume that I have interacted with more African-American faculties than Skeptic and likely reviewed more NIH grants than him/her. My experience, while still anecdotal, supports that cultural differences and lack of pedigree are likely reasons for differences in scores. This is what I would address if we believe that there is a problem. If somebody does not see any problem or believe that the issue is the inherit stupidity of all elements of different ethnic groups, I should not pursue this conversation.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Given the aggressive affirmative action programs that blacks benefit from at every rung of their climb up the science (or other) career ladder (ending with R01 applications), it is very difficult to see how you can maintain such a view.

    One thing that helps me maintain such a view is the mediocrity of many white males who are apparently quite comfortably ensconced in this business. This is combined with a failure of myself to know any black professorial rank scientists who are below the mean for the white male distribution in the relevant fields of study.

    This tends to reinforce my view that your opinion that affirmative action programs must surely further the incompetent are incorrect. It also tends to support my view that the selection process for professorial rank biomedical scientists is comparatively more severe for those individuals who are underrepresented in science than it is for the over-represented demographic. Which, when you think about it, makes logical sense.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Let us also take up Skeptic's apparent assertion that smarter PIs write "better" grants and therefore the disparity identified by Ginther is good, right and deserved.

    This is also incorrect. This logic implies that smartness creates better crafted applications which are more successful at navigating the peer review system. Since this has nothing inherently to do with whether the resulting science better fits* the NIH mission or not, this is actually an indictment. It means that smart people are fooling the NIH into giving them grants that they do not deserve on the merits of fulfilling the NIH mission.

    This ties into the inherently self-reinforcing conservatism of peer review that I was talking about in a prior blog post.

    *Initiatives of the NIH, including targeted FOA and PO pickups, to diversity their portfolio beyond the strict order of peer review** tends to support this notion.

    **the primary arbiter of "grantsmanship".

  • Skeptic says:

    CD0, you continue to be selective in your responses. What was the 'most important control" that was missing in the Minnesota transracial adoption study?

    Why is it that East Asians out-perform whites on intelligence tests designed by whites?
    "...selected members of that particular ethnic group take the test, typically at selected schools. " Reference please.

    I would address additional points you made, but I think I am more likely to get a direct response if I limit my remarks.

    DM, my anecdotal experience regarding black faculty is completely opposite yours. You will likely respond that that is the result of my inherent bias. I will respond with the same comment to you. Please provide a model to explain how one group of people can be consistently required to meet lower standards of performance for advancement, then suddenly perform at or above those who had to meet the higher standards. If you have something to offer besides white privilege and systemic oppression, please do. But then could you please explain what's holding back all the brilliant scientists in sub-Saharan Africa?

  • drugmonkey says:

    You are wrong about your lower standard charge. Particularly because people have to overcome bigotry such as you are expressing here. And yeah, I'm pretty sure your bias is on full display here which severely undermines your credibility.

  • Skeptic says:

    DM, based on your comments, it seems you are highly intelligent. I am guessing you probably don't go to church, though you definitely do have a religion. Can you do any better with your response?

  • jmz4gtu says:

    @dm
    Do you know if there has been any tracking of post-award productivity with a breakdown by ethnicity?

    @skeptic:
    "Please provide a model to explain how one group of people can be consistently required to meet lower standards of performance for advancement, then suddenly perform at or above those who had to meet the higher standards."
    Ask any professor who got hired in the 90s. They have, on average, 10 points lower of an IQ(Flynn effect), lower SATs for their undergraduate, and consistently higher paylines (lower expectations). And yet they consistently do better at getting grants than their more junior peers.
    Experience and connections matter. The NIH review process is not a meritocracy without human error and bias.

    And given the absence of any evidence that IQ or intelligence effect NIH grant success, your insistence that the disparity in the Ginther report is due to a dubious difference in intelligence between races seems to be illogical.

  • shrew says:

    Great to see that unashamed white supremacy is still considered a viable scientific theory by even one pathetic fucker in this day and goddamned age. Even better to see someone referencing the Bell Curve as a reputable resource in 2015.

    Get off the internet, skeptic. Your comments ring of bitterness, jealous that "others" are taking the scientific accolades you were due by virtue of some kind of racial primogeniture. If you haven't been as successful as you like, maybe you should stop writing comments and start writing grants. (On average, they're more likely to be funded anyway!)

    Or, you know, carry on blaming underrepresented minorities for your own failings. Seems to be working out great for you.

  • drugmonkey says:

    it seems you are highly intelligent

    gee thanks.

    though you definitely do have a religion.

    oh? you mean like your unexamined faith in the idea that IQ differences drive NIH grant scores?

    Can you do any better with your response?

    At the moment your points hardly require any better responses than I am offering. Do you have anything more interesting to say on this subject?

  • Vma says:

    What are all these aggressive affirmative action programs anyway? I've been having trouble finding any that specifically benefit URMs in physics. I think there used to be some 15 years ago, but not much (any?) left these days.

  • Skeptic says:

    I could, but this is about the point I lose interest in debating both creationists and race-idealists. I find both groups very interesting based on their shared ability to suspend rational thought when it comes to defending their most cherished beliefs.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    race-idealists

    New one on me. Is this supposed to mean someone who thinks it would be ideal if the perceived racial characteristics of an individual did not put up unfair barriers to their opportunities for achievement? If so, you got me.

  • The Other Dave says:

    Holy crap, I cannot believe that people here have started discussing IQ.

    Before another post gets made, I suggest that everyone read the classic 'The Mismeasure of Man' by Stephen Jay Gould (get a newer edition where he specifically talks about The Bell Curve in the foreword).

    Then, if anyone is still interested in thinking about IQ, make sure your principal component analysis math is up to snuff, and remember that every question on an IQ test measures only the subject's ability to answer that question. Then you can get drunk and argue all night with statisticians about how best and whether it's justified to squish all those binary measures into a single number that you can use to label other people (Go back and re-read The Mismeasure of Man if you spend more than a couple hours on this, or still think it's a good idea when sober).

    Personally, I have no doubt that IQ correlates with 'grantsmanship'. That's the problem. IQ measures are known to be racist. Grant funding shouldn't be.

  • ucprof says:

    @VMA what level are you at?

    Here are some general programs focused on landing faculty jobs.

    http://ppfp.ucop.edu/info/

    https://sacnas.org/

    http://www.facultydiversity.org/

    But, if you already have a faculty job and are trying to land funding (the focus of this post), sorry can't help with that.

  • Zee says:

    You know what I wish? I wish that instead of spending all this money on " how to attract, mentor and retain minority researchers" they would spend more money on training/teaching established researchers about their bias and privilage.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I think some of those grants partner Traditionally Lily White Universities with HBCU and minority-serving institutions. So... an opportunity for this very thing?

  • The Other Dave says:

    "I think some of those grants partner Traditionally Lily White Universities with HBCU and minority-serving institutions. So... an opportunity for this very thing?"

    Partner?! ha ha ha. No, it's more that the Lily White Institutions are using the minorities to score government funds. I see this shit all the time at NSF. Some of the proposals are incredibly racist. They act like it's perfectly reasonable for them to collect a few million to allow some poor disadvantaged darkies to come wash dishes in their labs for a summer.

  • SidVic says:

    Zee -" they would spend more money on training/teaching established researchers about their bias and privilage sic". - I really think you are on to something. But but.. have you ever been to a sensitivity "training" session? They probably create more bigots than they cure. No- to be effective, we must become more radical in the approach.

    Send the privileged bastards to to farms. You know- to work the land, slop the hogs, pick the fruit; that sort of thing. Restrict caloric intake to no more than 1200 calories. I think you would be surprised how fast these old codgers would come around. If you really want expunge the old thinking (four olds), one must, unfortunately, be rather ruthless.

  • Vma says:

    Thabks ucprof, good to know there is still something left. I'm already new faculty, but not at a uc. Post BRIGE, etc.

  • Zee says:

    I don't think any kind of training will cure a bigot but I think there are a lot of people in the middle, myself included, who if given a reminder say right before examining applications in a hiring committee or prior to rotations might question ourselves about our implicit bias and that could create a massive shift in the end. I think there have actually been studies to show that just watching a 5 minute presentation on bias in hiring changed the hiring of choices of committee significantly. It doesn't have to be a grand thing, just a gentle poke, delivered at the right moment can tip over even even the largest beast.

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