Ginther cites funding divide during Medical School talk

By Dennis Nealon


Donna K. Ginther, PhD,
at UMMS Sept. 28, 2012

There are many questions surrounding the distribution of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, according to University of Kansas economics Professor Donna K. Ginther, PhD, but there is already ample evidence to suggest that blacks and Asians have been lagging far behind whites in grant applications and awards.

“There is a significant difference in RO1 award probability by race and ethnicity,” said Ginther, who spoke to a University of Massachusetts Medical School audience Sept. 28. She said an NIH committee has been reviewing disparity in the funding process and is implementing changes.

Ginther, director of the Center for Science Technology & Economic Policy at the Institute for Policy & Social Research, University of Kansas, helped to shed light on the disparity in NIH funding in a study published in Science magazine in 2011.

“After controlling for an 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 study said. “Our results suggest some leverage points for policy intervention.”

Ginther said the grant application process should be fully explored, and training and mentoring programs evaluated to determine which ones tend to provide NIH investigators and which do not. She said more research is needed to understand the difference in NIH funding among race groups which is, according to Ginther, one of the causes of the lack of diversity in biomedical science.

The ongoing diversification of the U.S. population will affect the future makeup of the biomedical workforce, said Ginther; the only question is how, exactly.

Ginther’s talk was sponsored by the UMMS Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office, the Office of Research, the Department of Psychiatry, the Office of Faculty Affairs, and the Center for Health Equity Intervention Research, among others.

Dennis Nealon is associate communications director, Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, UMass Memorial Health Care.