Systemic biases, including biases in funding, are detrimental not only to individual careers but also to the quality of scholarship, the academic research endeavor, and shared commitments to integrity, meritocracy, and fairness. This week’s article from the New York Times [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/04/science/asian-scientists-nsf-funding.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare] reports that white PIs are more likely to be successful at NSF than any other racial group. An unexpected finding was that Asian-identifying PIs were the least likely of all racial groups to be funded by NSF and this trend has been persistent, even as Black and Hispanic PIs have made gains in research awards. The study’s authors [https://elifesciences.org/articles/83071] note that these patterns extended across all disciplinary directorates, external review scores, and were even more pronounced for unsolicited proposals.
In a rebuttal to these findings, another article available in preprint [https://osf.io/ykzvx/] argues that career stage and rate of proposal submissions partially explain the rates of disparity among racial groups. However, the original study’s authors maintain that disparities are engrained in the academic funding model and offer a number of process-oriented suggestions for change at funding agencies such as making funding data transparent and revising the reliance on merit-based reward systems that tend to perpetuate the very biases they are supposed to mitigate. Thus, this article illustrates that a commitment to sustained action that eliminates disparities is needed at all levels of academia.
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