Sex differences in K99/R00 awardees from my favorite ICs

Jul 21 2014 Published by under Grantsmanship, NIH, NIH Careerism, NIH funding, Peer Review

Datahound has some very interesting analyses up regarding NIH-wide sex differences in the success of the K99/R00 program.

Of the 218 men with K99 awards, 201 (or 92%) went on to activate the R00 portion. Of the 142 women, 127 (or 89%) went on to these R00 phase. These differences in these percentages are not statistically different.

Of the 201 men with R00 awards, 114 (57%) have gone on to receive at least 1 R01 award to date. In contrast, of the 127 women with R00 awards, only 53 (42%) have received an R01 award. This difference is jarring and is statistically significant (P value=0.009).

Yowza.

So per my usual, I'm very interested in what the ICs that are closest to my lab's heart have been up to with this program. Looking at K99 awardees from 07 to 09 I find women PIs to constitute 3/3, 1/3 and 2/4 in one Institute and 1/7, 2/6 and 5/14 in the other Institute. One of these is doing better than the other and I will just note that was before the arrival of a Director who has been very vocal about sex discrimination in science and academia.

In terms of the conversion to R01 funding that is the subject of Datahound's post, the smaller Institution has decent outcomes* for K99 awardees from 07 (R01, R21, nothing), 08 (R01, R01, R01) and 09 (P20 component, U component, nothing, nothing).

In the other Institute, the single woman from 07 did not appear to convert to the R00 phase but Google suggests made Assistant Professor rank anyway. No additional NIH funding. The rest of the 07 class contains 4 with R01 and two with nothing. In 08, the women PIs are split (one R01, one nothing) similar to the men (2 R01, 2 with nothing). In 09 the women PIs have two with R01s, one R03 and two with nothing.

So from this qualitative look, nothing is out of step with Datahound's NIH-wide stats. There are 14/37 women PIs, this 38% is similar to the NIH-wide 39% Datahound quoted although there may be a difference between these two ICS (30% vs 60%) that could stand some inquiry. One of 37 K99 awardees failed to convert to R00 from the K99 (but seems to be faculty anyway). Grant conversion past the R00 is looking to be roughly half or a bit better.

I didn't do the men for the 2009 cohort in the larger Institute but otherwise the sex differences in terms of getting/not getting additional funding beyond the R00 seems pretty similar.

I do hope Datahound's stats open some eyes at the NIH, however. Sure, there are reasons to potentially excuse away a sex difference in the rates of landing additional research funding past the R00. But I am reminded of a graph Sally Rockey posted regarding the success rate on R01-equivalent awards. It showed that men and women PIs had nearly identical success rates on new (Type 1) proposals but slightly lower success on Renewal (Type 2) applications. This pastes over the rates of conversion to R00 and the acquisition of additional funding, if you squint a bit.

Are women overall less productive once they've landed some initial funding? Are they viewed negatively on the continuation of a project but not on the initiation of it? Are women too humble about what they have accomplished?
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*I'm counting components of P or U mechanisms but not pilot awards.

15 responses so far

  • Pinko Punko says:

    If there is across the board gaps in say, startup packages, teaching loads, quality of jobs, then the R01 rate could also readout all of those things in addition to any issues on the NIH side. Additionally, and depressing in that there is no real safety net, if some substantial fraction of women postpone having children during postdocs to have them as Assistant Professors, this could have huge impact as well. Lots of inequalities that can add up in many areas.

  • Jean M says:

    I am a female PI...I have been one for 30 years. There are things I have done/ignored/given up to stay funded this long.

    1. hobbies...I have none
    2. doing any "volunteer" things at my kids' schools/clubs/sports.
    3. a large family (2 kids only)
    4. a clean house
    5. long vacations
    6. cooking anything but dinner
    7. decorating anything....house, yards, decks, birthday cakes.
    8. time for myself

    Many women are not willing to do this. This is not a criticism. It is a fact of life for all female PIs. We have had to choose.

  • potnia theron says:

    @JeanM - this is exactly right. But our generation had it a bit better than one before. The "greatest generation" women seldom were married, had families, and a successful career. The sad thing about these data is that the situation does not seem to have changed for younger women.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Potnia- you don't think a young woman scientist of today is statistically more likely to find a spouse who will be more supportive of her career and some of the having it all items listed above compared with your generation?

  • Joe says:

    I find it curious that neither DM nor DH mentioned anything about the difference in the total numbers of K99's awarded (218 to men, 142 to women). Is there something in the way those are awarded that makes that discrepancy expected?

    Also, I agree with Pinko above that the differences in obtaining R01 funding may partly be due to differences in job expectations in the first years. In particular, I see a more difficult teaching load and a lot more committee service expected for female asst profs than males.

  • SidVic says:

    42% vs 57% doesn't sound too bad to me, and certainly not jarring. DM- the issue is not finding a supportive spouse. Many women, more than men, enjoy, or are almost compelled to decorate their kids birthday cake. On average(caveat), differences in the priorities of the sexes exist. To deny is foolish.
    My dad told me that if you want to understand the difference between men and women look at the magazines that they buy to read with their own money, and their own pleasure. I've found this to provide insights.

  • anonymous postdoc says:

    That is true. Women spend far less money on buying magazines covered with half-naked men than men do on magazines covered with women in compromising positions.

    What is a supportive spouse? One who takes on more than 50% of the household work while The Scientist essentially ignores them for years to focus on their Great Work? Frankly, such an arrangement will not help women scientists be taken seriously by their peers, since there's still plenty of sexism to feel alienated by. Further, such a home arrangement increases the odds that the scientist will feel alienated at home as well. That is, I suppose, a kind of work-life balance. Hooray.

  • Davis Sharp says:

    Joe: I find it curious that neither DM nor DH mentioned anything about the difference in the total numbers of K99's awarded (218 to men, 142 to women).

    DH no longer has access to the internal NIH database of all applications (funded and unfunded). He can only go by the public data in NIH Reporter, which cannot answer the question of success rates between men and women.

  • Susan says:

    If there is across the board gaps in say, startup packages, teaching loads, quality of jobs, then the R01 rate could also readout all of those things in addition to any issues on the NIH side.

    One source of these gaps could be the differences in accepted negotiating practices (ie, women negotiate less and are more likely to be penalized when they do so).

    Also, lab personnel accumulation: do the grad students and postdocs perceive a difference when "taking a risk" on joining the new lab of a woman? Smaller labs could result in less productivity.

  • Dave says:

    1. hobbies...I have none
    2. doing any "volunteer" things at my kids' schools/clubs/sports.
    3. a large family (2 kids only)
    4. a clean house
    5. long vacations
    6. cooking anything but dinner
    7. decorating anything....house, yards, decks, birthday cakes.
    8. time for myself

    Many women are not willing to do this

    Agreed, but it's important to point out that this situation is not unique to women in scientific fields. My fiancee is in the business and finance world, and I would argue that it is just as bad there, if not worse. We haven't taken a vacation in three years, have delayed having kids, our house is a shit-hole half the time and we have no time for hobbies etc etc. Unfortunately these are the realities of the day to day grind that our generation has to suffer if a successful career is the goal.....rightly or wrongly.

  • Tinkering Theorist says:

    "Are women too humble about what they have accomplished?"
    Are men too boastful about what they think they have accomplished?

  • anonymous postdoc says:

    I think Susan is onto something.

  • AScientist says:

    Something like 90% of the (partnered) women I know who have landed an Assistant Professor gig (in the last 8-10 years) has become pregnant within a year of starting, having put off family making until landing that first TT position. They've been waiting so long, they can't wait until after tenure, and most will take that extra year stopping the tenure clock. Since success rates generally are pretty even, I would suspect that female R00's just are taking a little more time before submitting that first R01.

  • drugmonkey says:

    That is an interesting observation. Could very well have impact on the numbers.

  • female academic mom says:

    Re: "you don't think a young woman scientist of today is statistically more likely to find a spouse who will be more supportive of her career and some of the having it all items listed above compared with your generation?"

    I have had a lot of discussions/debates about this with my parent friends and would love to see a systematic survey. In my own experience, I have observed three types of parents (of all career types, not just academic):

    1) moms who acquiesced to the dad's career (I know lots of stay-at-home moms, some part-time moms, some moms who work full-time but not full-throttle)

    2) co-equal parents, both full-time, full throttle. It is hard for either spouse to be really supportive of the other. I find in this case, the mom tends to spend more time on parenting, for various reasons.

    3) dads who acquiesced to the mom's career (I know one stay at home dad, one part-time dad, and some dads who are full-time but not as full-throttle as their wife)

    The women in #2 and #3 (especially #3) have high-profile, high-paying jobs.

    In my own experience as a female academic mom... My non-academic husband has a high-profile high-paying job; his career took off much faster because he didn't have the 10 years of indentured servitude (PhD+postdoc). He is at the peak of his career, and it wouldn't make sense for him to back off professionally for him or financially for us. Add the sexist academic environment on top of that -- why would I ask my family to give up anything for a that kind of career? (Don't know, but I'm doing it anyway, despite seeming crazy to my non-academic mom friends) I see other women falling into this couples career imbalance too.

    I think male academics still, even in this modern age, tend to have a better shot at having a spouse willing to acquiesce (ie #1 vs #3). I think that there are fewer women academics with family-focused husbands, than there are male academics with family-focused wives. I do think the #2 class of parents is growing, which is great. But in the #2 class, there is still no time for extra-curriculars, like Jean said.

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