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American Grant Writing: Race Matters

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the taking-for-granted dept.

United States 464

PHPNerd writes "You might expect that science, particularly American science, would be color-blind. Though fewer people from some of the country's ethnic minorities are scientists than the proportions of those minorities in the population suggest should be the case, once someone has got bench space in a laboratory, he might reasonably expect to be treated on merit and nothing else. Unfortunately, a study just published in Science suggests that is not true. The study looked at the pattern of research grants awarded by the NIH and found that race matters a lot. Moreover, Asian and Hispanic scientists do just as well as white ones. Black scientists, however, fare badly."

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Bias against other professionals, too. (2)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144240)

It's not just race, profession also hurts. Especially when applying for science grants.

True story: around 2000 some of us got together and applied for some money to map out and prove something Chiropractors already know: the subluxation-disease link. We were ready to buy a 3T MRI from Siemens, a PET scanner and hire on some lab workers (primarily students).

The fellow who submitted the proposal NEVER EVEN HEARD BACK from the organisation. He wrote several times and finally got back something to the effect of "We don't grant non-scientific experimentation" when we were ready to actually start looking at all the scientific equipment needed.

Re:Bias against other professionals, too. (1, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144402)

Scientific equipment doesn't mean you're doing science. If I used a scanning electron microscope to find angels dancing on the head of a pin that doesn't mean I'm conducting science.

Re:Bias against other professionals, too. (0)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144634)

Well, now you have your confirmation that being a Chiropractic is nothing but witch doctor voodoo.
That must be super for you to have validation from the scientific community that your ability to relatively "pop knuckles" is viewed as a scam.

Re:Bias against other professionals, too. (2)

theghost (156240) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144652)

If you want to prove something you already know, you're science-ing wrong, or rather you're not doing science at all.

'Race' is racist (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144288)

The word 'race' has racist connotations and as a scientific concept is obsolete, 'ethnic group' should be used instead.

Re:'Race' is racist (3, Funny)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144320)

The word 'connotations' has negative... connotations. 'Vibes' should be used instead'.

Re:'Race' is racist (2)

Yamioni (2424602) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144622)

Kudos on your respect for varied races. I'd give you props instead, but I'm white.

Re:'Race' is racist (2, Funny)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144702)

I'm not picky. I'll accept yer props even if yer not a nigger.

Re:'Race' is racist (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144756)

(That was satire/parody/tongue-in-cheek, which I hope should be obvious but there's always that one jerk with a knee....)

Re:'Race' is racist (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144388)

Except "ethnicity" refers only to culture, whereas "race" is about something else.

Re:'Race' is racist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144996)

Wrong - Check your dictionary again.
Ethnicity refers to genetics.

Re:'Race' is racist (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144512)

That sounds pretty racist to me.

Re:'Race' is racist (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144742)

Correct. Judging people by the color of their skin is racist. Judging them by their melanin levels is scientific.

not coming back here (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144310)

Well, this discussion figures to be the most racist thing on the internet today.

Re:not coming back here (1)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144464)

I suppose we know from the principle of ordering and the finiteness of the internet that there must be a "most racist thing" on the internet, but I doubt any slashdot discussion is capable of coming anywhere close to that superlative.

Re:not coming back here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144924)

Except for anything on

Why have any racial indicators? (4, Insightful)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144314)

TFA says that they assume the peers are assuming race from "black sounding" names or historically black universities.

Why would any of these factor in during the peer review process? I would certainly hope that scientists understand what "double-blind" means & apply it to the review process. It doesn't matter what the person's name is or what university they went to or work at now. All that SHOULD matter is the quality of the science that is presented, therefore that is all that should be on the report that is peer-reviewed.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144364)

Yah, Steve Urkle was black and he was able to build a teleportation device.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144414)

My understanding, from the various articles read, is that the only thing removed from the grant proposal is the person's explicitly-given ethnicity and gender. The name, institute, and all the other information on the individual, is left in.

For those not familiar with NIH grants, I believe Cayuse has an online demo package for collecting the data needed and turning it into a grant proposal. There is a LOT of information on there, and therefore all kinds of things that may be being used to unfairly discriminate. Yes, it should be completely on the science (well, that and the realistic ability of the person to perform it). In practice, the current methodology is a bit of a disaster.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

Monkey-Man2000 (603495) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144586)

It wouldn't matter if they removed the name of the person and their professional information (institutes, etc.) because RO1s must build off one's previous work to be strong. So, it will be easy to figure out who the author is from the reviewer's POV based on the background info for the proposal. These proposals don't manifest themselves in a vacuum.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

bullale (2441834) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144604)

Yes, it should be completely on the science (well, that and the realistic ability of the person to perform it).

How can you rate someone's ability to perform the proposed science without looking at their past accomplishments? To do so you need their name and institutional affiliation. If they are a young scientist without much of a track record then there is even more weight put on the reputation of the institution. And, though this is a lesser problem, grant applicants typically reference previous findings in order to justify their current hypotheses. While you can reference previous findings from all sorts of sources, what better way to show you know what you are talking about than to reference your own peer-reviewed articles heavily?

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144800)

Unfortunately you can't strip out institutional information or the identification of the individual, because the reputation of the individual from prior published research and the facilities at their disposal have a bearing on the evaluation of the grant proposal. If someone with no prior experience on the subject of the grant, no prior publications, and working at a college with poor lab facilities makes a proposal for a $100k grant, then they don't really have the foundation to do the work regardless of the merits on other grounds. Unfortunately there's no easy way to eliminate most of the individual-specific stuff to allow meaningful evaluation of that background (imagine if you tried to justify that you've got the background, but the grant committee couldn't see the citations for published papers because that would reveal who was publishing). Even if you tried to do so (e.g., by taking out the names of persons and institutions), it would probably still be obvious who was applying because the number of people with particular skills and access to particular instruments would be small. Race and gender aren't relevant to the scientific evaluation, so that does get stripped out, but obviously names can be used with fair reliability to infer those. It's surprising and disappointing that it somehow might still have some bearing, but I can't see an easy way to completely anonymize the process. I don't know how it could be done unless the importance of the published background of the individual was completely removed, which would be pretty weird. It could mean that complete novices get handed grants while people with a demonstrated and successful track record get unfunded. It's not impossible to do, but very risky.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

JayBean (841258) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144420)

I agree with the parent. There is no reason for a reviewer to know the authors names/university affiliations. Only the editors should be allowed this information. Are there any journals that follow this practice?

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

codeAlDente (1643257) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144682)

In peer review of journal articles, names are on the articles, but the reviewer's identity is secret. Often it's possible to guess the identity of the reviewer though. As a prospective reviewer, you're offered an abstract, and you decide whether reviewing it is worth your time. Usually, you know the people who wrote the article, and you can make an educated guess about whether or not they can support their claims. Believe it or not, this information is helpful to those reviewers who are only interested in the advancement of science. Further, especially in smaller fields, if the author were not known, it would be easy to guess by the collection of techniques and the arguments presented. Moreover, results are usually presented at conferences before publication anyway, so removing names and affiliations would have little effect, and would serve to reduce transparency. It's not a racial thing, in my experience. If there's treachery, it tends toward slamming a rival in a review and then publishing his or her results.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (2)

welcher (850511) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144428)

It shouldn't matter what the name is, but who the person is and where they intend to do the work (i.e., what university they are at) are very important as the person needs to prove that they can achieve what they propose. So the reviewers can't be blinded from these facts. In this respect, a grant is nothing like a peer-reviewed article.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (3, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144514)

Maybe the studies looked at where not as good? Black sounding names? Here is a list of real people I went to school with.
Caroline Thornton.
Phyllis Green
Steve Davidson
David Meyers
Lisa Kraft
Mike Paterson
Tim Smith

So tell me which ones if any are African american?
Maybe in this sample they projects where less interesting than the others?
If this is a real worry then take the names and university off the grant apps for a while and see what happens.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

Yamioni (2424602) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144696)

If I had to guess, the only one I would place as sounding remotely "African American" would be Tim Smith.

Will the answers be revealed, and do I get a cookie if I'm right?

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144532)

You are under the assumption that grant givers are part of the Peer Review process... They are not... The people who are allowed to give these grants are under huge amount of political pressure, and can get fired for doing the right thing. So say University A is on the East Coast and University B is on the West Cost and there was a Grant for studying earthquakes. NSF will most likely give the grant to University B even if University A had the better plan and University B had a complete crap request. Because if the University B had found out A got it. They will go to their congressman and goes up and people in the NSF will need to debate and have a bunch of political rambling. So it would be easier to fire the guy who did the right thing.

Chances are someone with a White Sounding name a Todd vs. Tyrone will get a grant because chances are better that a Todd will have more political connections then a Tyrone will.

Scientific community isn't immune to corruption. You need to face that fact, when humans are involved self interest will kick in, and cloud the truth.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144578)

TFA says that they assume the peers are assuming race from "black sounding" names or historically black universities. THAT'S why they were never able to stop Dr. Richard Daystrom from researching multitronic systems! They never caught on because how his last name sounded!

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

blakelarson (1486631) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144638)

We're talking about grants here, and an important way to judge if someone is capable of doing something worthwhile with free money is to see what they have done in the past. That means publications usually, and it's hard to cite those without exposing the author's names. You can't depend on the research plan alone, since they are so short. Unfortunately reviewer's racist biases are showing through. Journals, however, should be blinded to the authors, even though that would be hard to do. Having done peer review myself, I find it easier to recommend publication if a field expert is one of the authors (it's hard not to). Usually authors build upon previous work, and with those citations it's pretty obvious who the authors are, even if they aren't explicitly listed. I hope this gets more publicity, so reviewers can be shamed into being less biased, if that is at all possible.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

jshine (321403) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144650)

The institution of a grant applicant matters a *lot* (probably more than the scientific merit of the grant application itself or the applicant writing it). The vast majority of funding goes to the largest, most famous, and (in a somewhat circular manner) most successful research universities. Due to this skewing, if that small pool of top-ranked schools have relatively few black faculty, then the funding will end up going to faculty who aren't black.

From my experience in academia, this seems like a "pirates prevent global warming" situation -- there may be a correlation, but probably not a causative one. There is *definitely* bias in how grants are awarded, but it's bias toward specific institutions rather than a racial bias (given that color is hard or impossible to infer from grant application paperwork anyway).

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144672)

The institution of a grant applicant matters a *lot* (probably more than the scientific merit of the grant application itself or the applicant writing it)

So, you're making my point for me.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144902)


If you are from Howard University, I'm not giving you any grant money.

Not because it is a historically black college, but because it is a crappy college.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (2)

deadmantyping (827232) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144694)

My experience is more with Department of Energy grants, so I don't know how much of this applies to NIH grants, but in grants I have dealt with a lot of time is spent basically promoting the expertise of the PI and how that person's expertise would allow them to successfully perform the research proposed in the grant proposal.

If you intend to strip out all identifying information then a large part of the introductory sections are can no longer be confirmed by the peer reviewers by means of checking the PI's background or references. Expertise and ability to successfully execute the proposed research is an important aspect of any grant, and it can be an unreasonable burden on a Project Manager to have to evaluate each proposal without some kind of expert input.

I agree with the sentiment of wanting to strip out all identifying information, as I have personally experienced bias from competing researchers during various peer review processes, but I believe that it would simply be impractical.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144860)

Answer: don't fucking your fucking proposal in Ebonics. It's not really a language. It's just monkey-speak.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

golden age villain (1607173) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144880)

Anyway, grants are reviewed by people in the same field as the applicant. When you are asked to review grants, you are normally at that stage in your career when you know most of the people in your field and can easily guess from whom the grant is coming.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144904)

My guess is it started back in the old days, when there weren't as many people doing science, and it was helpful to know who might be worth giving a grant to. Professor Einstein or Feynman would be more likely to do good work than some random guy, for example, even if they don't know how to write (ok, Feynman knew how to write). Grant writing is a different skill than actually being able to do science, you shouldn't punish people for not knowing how to write grants.

I suspect that might be part of the reasoning.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#37145032)

I'm guessing the justification would be something along the lines of "If we know who is applying, we'll know if they've done good work in the past or not, we'll know if they have a good track record." Which does play into it, you know some lab is very good at writing grants and sounding good on paper, but then doesn't do as much with the money when they get it as you'd like. The big downside is that rather than merit of the project being proposed, funding is based more on politics and, evidently, race factors into that.

I suspect double blind grants would get us better science overall, one could find other ways to weed out the labs that just glum up grants and don't do much science.

Re:Why have any racial indicators? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37145036)

You'd think this, I used to. But peer review is not double-blind, its only single-blind. The reviewers are anonymous, though if you're been around long enough you can sometimes figure it out. Plus, if you're on the review panel, you know who they other reviewers are (though none of them will have proposals in that panel).

The reviewers DO know who the submitters are, and that sounds unscientific, and it is. Grant reviewing is not a science. It's not exactly fair, its definitely biased, and thats actually usually OK.

The reason is this: Someone writes a grant asking for $1 million to study . They have preliminary data, they have good ideas, but there is a final question: "Do we think this person could execute this plan?" This comes down to a lot of things. If you want to use your grant to say, do a large mouse study, but you come from a small school with a limited or no animal facility, that's going to factor in. Sometimes people get grants they end up being unable to execute because they overestimated how much capacity their facilities had.

Also, some grants can be very big deals. They could involve doing some very high-tech stuff. Some scientists and lab groups may be less capable. I am more likely to believe an established lab from a group with a history of effective research will execute than a small group, new professor at a college I've never heard of. Is it unfair? Yes. But NSF isn't interested in being fair like that, its interested in getting a return on its investment.

Academic grants are not about "giving people a chance" they are about synthesizing knowledge using cash.

Also, more obviously, its not possible for the studies to be double-blind. A submitter has to submit references with their past work. They are going to HAVE to say, "Our previous work on this led us to the following hypotheses we'd like to test (insert references to previously published work from this group)."

Venture capitalists don't do double-blind investment, and neither should NSF, NIH, whomever.

Affirmative Action (3, Insightful)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144342)

It could simply be Affirmative Action catching up with a population. These sorts of studies always attempt to correct for "achievement" somehow, but two PhDs from Harvard may not be equally talented if one were to receive the position through some sort of AA. Sometimes things like this simply aren't measure

Re:Affirmative Action (3, Informative)

SpeZek (970136) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144468)

Affirmative Action doesn't hand the student a degree, it just gets them in the school. Just because someone was born into a shitty situation doesn't mean they shouldn't get the same opportunities as the upper class who never have to worry about discrimination.

Re:Affirmative Action (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144510)

It did get at least one person the Presidency: []

Re:Affirmative Action (0)

SpeZek (970136) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144584)

Except that whole article is bullshit because Obama has never released his transcript, so anybody saying that he breezed through college is basing that solely on the fact that his skin is brown.

Re:Affirmative Action (0)

Yamioni (2424602) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144734)

Ah ha! So Obama is one of those brownies I've been hearing so much about. I wonder how many merit badges he's earned, because I've sure as hell never seen him in uniform.

Re:Affirmative Action (3, Insightful)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144654)

Affirmative Action doesn't hand the student a degree, it just gets them in the school.

I often found that the hardest part is getting in. I applied to a top tier school early admission and was deferred to regular admission. Then I was waitlisted, and finally I was accepted. Once there, I found some kids who were accepted to early admission were borderline retarded, compulsive liars, and habitual slackers. Some of these kids didn't do too hot, but others joined frats and had a nice support network to help them through college (not to mention a steady supply of Adderall).

For a while it really irked me that these kids were picked before me, when I felt I was more qualified, but I eventually got over it when they dropped out of my program.

Re:Affirmative Action (2)

SpeZek (970136) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144820)

Well, sure. But there's also a significant number of the wealthy who essentially pay their way through school, whether directly via corruption/contributions or indirectly through being able to afford things like super-expensive tutors to learn for them. They have the advantage. Programs like AA certainly aren't perfect, but they're better than just letting class decide who gets a chance. Maybe you are more qualified, but is that because you're a better person, or because you had the opportunities to become better qualified in the first place?

My first year of university I was one of those habitual slackers because I came from a poor neighbourhood with shitty schools that I breezed through and never taught me very basic study skills. One of my best friends, on the other hand, went to a significantly higher-class school system and did get taught more skills than were available to me. I'm doing much better now, but there's no question that my class gave me a competitive disadvantage.

Re:Affirmative Action (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144950)

Programs like AA certainly aren't perfect,

Might wanna rethink the use of that acronym. I mean, I figured out what you meant, but that isn't how 'AA' is usually used.

Re:Affirmative Action (1)

SpeZek (970136) | more than 3 years ago | (#37145018)

In context it's fine.

Re:Affirmative Action (2, Insightful)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144808)

There are still other flaws, things that can be dangerous to the students within schools, If there are only 2 black students, and 15 white students in a class, both black students are doing terrible, The teacher may be afraid to fail them due to the risk of frivolous lawsuits or accusations of racism that can damn a career whether they succeed or fail. The fact is they can't prove or disprove anything of racism, the only fair way to test would be to have a white person and a black person submit identical papers, forge it so their histories are identical, send the white guys application to 50+ reviewers, and the black guys application to a different 50+ reviewers, then compare their rates. It may be racism, it might not be racism, but I believe trying to claim "The only reason I didn't get the job/grant/acceptance/promotion is because I am Black/Female/Asian/whatever is in more cases then not, a bogus claim, that then turns into a self fulfilling prophesy, almost everyone I have heard blame their race/gender for things, is almost always an underachiever hiding behind it saying they don't have a chance anyway.

Re:Affirmative Action (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144838)

I would now like to see a study on what the average graduation GPA of students who made it into a university due to their merits *and* affirmative action vs those who made it into college based solely on their merits.

Personally I would expect those who had better grades coming into school on average to have better grades coming out. This would in turn affect the average long-term results of the group of people who got into school with the aid of affirmative action.

Re:Affirmative Action (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144900)

We're not talking about students here. We're talking about professors and other research faculty, who's hiring is indeed based on AA.

(not that this has anything to do with their credentials, of course. just saying)

Re:Affirmative Action (1)

SpeZek (970136) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144974)

Well, the OP was implying that the PhD that got admitted through AA is probably not going to be as talented as the PhD that was not; that suggests that AA gives the student a free ride.

Re:Affirmative Action (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144712)

Honestly, that was my first thought too. I've worked with some extremely talented black professionals, but I've also met some that I considered sub-par. It's sad and unfair that a person's first reaction to this kind of story is to immediately point the finger of blame, but I think that it's a natural consequence of the way affirmative action was implemented in the US.

Here we go... (1)

pottymouth (61296) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144360)

Well, blacks do need more need help. It's well established black's are just not as bright as other races so it makes perfect sense to give them more priority for science work. I mean. It's just fair right? This about making everything fair. In fact I think that the lighter races should be subjected to lobotomies just to even the playing field. I'm sure most Slashdotters won't need it but there's just so many unjustly smart people in this world it just makes sense to level the playing field...

(I'm just dying for the morons that will reply to this....)

Re:Here we go... (2)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144884)

You should read up on some of the more interesting "penis size" studies. I think there would be similar findings if a similar study of intelligence and other mental capacities were measured across ethnicities.

What I found most interesting that that "most men are 'average sized' regardless of race." It's just that among black men, there is a higher incident of "larger than average" sizes. Similarly, among asians, there is a higher incident of smaller than average sizes. But the fact remains, most men are average regardless of ethnicity.

I fully expect the same of black men with regards to intelligence and mental capacity/capability.

But you know? There is also something to be said about the fact that all non-black people seem to have at least a little neanderthal in them. It has been widely believed that since neanderthals had larger brains that they were actually smarter than the presumed modern humans. They disappeared, but they also mixed with the humans that migrated out of Africa. So is it worth considering that the neanderthal component has served to boost the mental capacity of non-african humans?

Furthermore who came up with "White" Papers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144362)

as the authoritve opinion on a subject. I think it should be called a Jeffrey caus who the fuck is gonna be afraid of a Jeffrey.

Re:Furthermore who came up with "White" Papers (1)

Yamioni (2424602) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144794)

Someone with Giraffobia. I mean have you seen that guy? He's a giraffe and he talks. That shit is just creepy.

It's not fair how blacks fare... (2)

Confused (34234) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144374)

The original blurb:

Black scientists, however, fair badly.

It might not be fair how blacks fare, but I'm certain, they're not getting faired []

Re:It's not fair how blacks fare... (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144422)

It might not be fair how blacks fare, but I'm certain, they're not getting faired

Except for Michael Jackson, and I don't think he fared too well.

Re:It's not fair how blacks fare... (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144540)

But he could dance.

Well (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144386)

Those who "fair badly"[sic] should perhaps clean up their language? That might bring more grants.

Not convinced. (3, Insightful)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144424)

Their results show that the chance of a black scientist receiving a grant was 17%. For Asians, Hispanics and whites the number was between 26% and 29%.

For all we know, this statistic is just due to random chance.
As much as everyone loves to play the race card, you can not deny this IS a possibility.
I'm also not denying that it's a possibility that it is indeed the truth, though. -shrug-

Re:Not convinced. (4, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144526)

Even if the sample sizes were large enough that the margin of error is small, it doesn't tell us what the cause is. That could be anything from a fallout from affirmative action to language skill development in the formative years, differentiation in fields of study, or a bunch of other factors that don't necessarily have much to do with skin colour or ethnicity.

Re:Not convinced. (1)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144640)

I'm willing to assume a difference of 9-12% is well more than one standard deviation, myself....and I'm damn near the last guy who wants to "play the race card", if that's what you'd like to call it.

Re:Not convinced. (2)

infaustus (936456) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144708)

If you read TFA article, you will see that the p-value's are given as less than .001. That means there is a .1% chance of getting results this extreme if grants are given on a race-neutral basis, assuming their model is otherwise correct. It seems unlikely this statistic is due to random chance. I have an alternate explanation for the data. Affirmative action means that degrees from and jobs at prestigious universities will overstate the aptitude of minorities, so these variables are not sufficient for the regression.

Re:Not convinced. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144918)

Affirmative action could get a student admitted, but will not get them a diploma. How about we try a little more rational thinking and a little less of that kind of approach.

Re:Not convinced. (1)

gregorgregorgregor (1438071) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144876)

Of course this could be due to random chance! But with a sample of over 80,000 applications from 40,000 investigators, they report a p-value of 0.001 (from TFA), so there's a more than 99.9% probability that these results are not due to chance. Which, to me, is worth more than an ambivalent "-shrug-". Most scientific research relies on findings that are much more ambiguous than this.

A bunch of bollocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144456)

Grant reviews are judged based on scientific merits, especially on NIH-funded grants. God forbid that this finding would lend support to some sort of affirmative action for grants. Otherwise, the already politically-charged scientific landscape is made even more politically charged. Then, zero scientific progress will be made in the US.

other factors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144472)

Please. At the end of the article they say that they will do a study taking out any racial indicators (names, schools, I assume). Isn't it possible that the review committees we working just on merit, and that the merit shows that the black scientists were of lesser quality? If the asian and other races weren't any different, then why just the blacks? If the peer reviewers were truly racist against blacks, then their thought process would go like this: look at the name/school. White/asian/whatever? No problem. Black-sounding? Ohhhh bad. Don't approve. How is it that these studies only give one possible explanation: racism. Aren't we proponents of truth, which explores all possibilities, regardless of political social implications?

The Secret of NIH (1)

Scragglykat (1185337) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144474)

Next thing you know they'll be showing prejudice against super-smart rats.

Re:The Secret of NIH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144736)

Maybe the rats should submit something other than "A Proposal on How to Take Over The World!"

Reality... (1, Insightful)

Pro923 (1447307) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144478)

Can't we just face the reality that some races are actually better are certain things than others due to millions of years of evolution? Let's face it - historically, the Europeans showed up to the Americas and Africa with guns while the natives were all throwing spears. A country as small as Germany almost took over the world 60 years ago. Why is that? Couldn't it be because something in the German evolutionary history has made their brains such that they're better engineers (ON AVERAGE) ?

Re:Reality... (2)

LastGunslinger (1976776) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144664)

Please be a troll. If you aren't, I suggest you read Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. He makes a convincing argument that race has nothing to do with it.

What color are most professional athletes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144990)

What color are most professional athletes?

Oh, I see, genetics can have an effect on one's physical attributes but not their mental attributes.

MAYBE, we need an affirmative action program for professional sports. Sounds pretty stupid right? But in the hiring process, it isn't the best qualified it is the best qualified AFTER you have satisfied all of your racial hiring quota's.

Re:Reality... (0)

bullale (2441834) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144764)

No. It's opportunity and culture. Do you think a rich black German would be a better or worse engineer than a poor white German? Do you think Jews are genetically better lawyers/doctors/bankers or do you think that Jews are more likely to get in to such professions because of strong cultural influence? After living with a few Jewish guys in college, I can assure you that they had a lot of pressure to become successful professionals. One was tall blonde and blue-eyed, another was short and dark-skinned from another part of the word, and the last was average-everything. Doctor, banker, banker. I don't think they shared nearly as much genetically as they did culturally. This is obviously anecdotal but I hope it gets the point across.

Proper controls? (2)

codeAlDente (1643257) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144490)

A fine, though debatable point: the study in Science does not suggest that grant applications are not treated on merit. In fact, racial identity is not known by the grant reviewers on study section. Further, the article mentioned that previous studies at top schools did not show this bias. One possibility (which I do not necessarily advocate) that was not discussed by the article, is that their 'controls' for institutional quality, quality of educational institutions attended, etc., are not ideal for use as a control. For many years, both undergraduate and graduate programs in the biomedical field have used different standards of admittance for blacks and whites/Asians. A less qualified black person can take the place of a more qualified white person. I'm not saying this is bad - it's simply a fact, and it shouldn't' be ignored. This can also take place in hiring decisions. Thus, a black person can have a CV which appears identical to a white person's CV, but the merit required to achieve it can be substantially less. The opposite would happen if quotas were enforced in the NBA - Doug Gottlieb might make a team, but he'd never get mentioned with Bird or Nowitzki as a great player, and the overall quality of the league might go down. It's interesting that the study found different conclusions for blacks and Latinos.

Redact it (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144494)

Why are there names at all on grant applications? Shouldn't the quality of the thing be able to stand up by itself?

Affirmative action? (3, Insightful)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144542)

I wonder what the results would be if they controlled for people who benefitted from affirmative action policies that let them into schools with lower grades and test scores.

They've already noted this with law degrees: []

It seems plausible to posit that regardless of ethnic or racial background, people who are held to lower standards might not fare so well in real life competition.

Perpetuating it (2)

georgenh16 (1531259) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144554)

Doesn't focusing on differences (like this study) just perpetuate racism?

Who pays for such a "study" anyways?

Very Old News (4, Interesting)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144568)

Massive discrimination, in grant reviewing and in every other area, is as old as science itself.

I read about a study in which the authors took the exact same papers under the exact same completely fictional student names and submitted them in massive round-robin cycles to all the applicable journals. Sometimes, they put Harvard, UNC, or Vanderbilt down as the university source and sometimes WSU, East Carolina, or Buttfucksville University of the Holy Trinity.

I'll let you just imagine how acceptance rates came out.

All science funding and publishing is bullshit. Black scientists may get extra fucked over, but no one is treated fairly outside of the Ivy League and maybe another 20 top R1 schools.

I'm not racist (1, Funny)

ndogg (158021) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144614)

I have black friends like Tyson here. We hang out all the time, and talk about the stars.

[uncomfortable smile]

Why would I expect that? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144626)

You might expect that science, particularly American science, would be color-blind.

Isn't the US that country where race is generally considered a big deal, and everyone has a legal race in the census and so on? Why would I expect American anything to be color-blind?

It doesn't prove it's not merit based (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144646)

This is unconvincing. Here's the deal:

It is well known that U.S. born black people going through college in the US get breaks not afforded to everyone else. We have even seen egregious examples of passes that should have been fails and even examples of plagiarism that has gone unaddressed and unpunished when done by black people. We know all too well how the system seeks "fairness and balance" by giving advantage to the "disadvantaged." But what happens after graduation?

Well, let's just say, I would be reluctant to go to a black doctor and would be more inclined to go to a doctor from India. Does that make me a racist? Hell no it doesn't. It's the fact that there has been a huge and competitive flow of medical students from India and only the best can get through the process due to various numeric limitations put into place by administrations in the name of "fairness, balance and diversity." Meanwhile, in order to keep the numbers of black doctors higher, they have to make allowances quite often. But how does this affect quality? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that if you have to lower standards in order to boost numbers, then quality will drop.

Does that mean "black doctors and scientists are of lesser quality" because they are black? NO! Not if you rate them on merit... individually without consideration of race. But when you start considering race, then you will see there will be "fewer black people get grants."

There is a lot more going on behind the scenes than this article addresses. It certainly doesn't offer detailed statistics covering the spread of scores presented by the various applicants.

Racism needs to go away. Every time someone tries to make a point like this, it just goes to show how racist they actually are.

Re:It doesn't prove it's not merit based (1)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144858)

Soooo.....everyone who says blacks are getting screwed is actually a racist? Is mere awareness of race and any response to it at all what constitutes racism in your book, or what?

I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with anything else you said; I just cannot fathom that last sentence no matter how I try.

Re:It doesn't prove it's not merit based (3, Insightful)

jahudabudy (714731) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144980)

Well, let's just say, I would be reluctant to go to a black doctor and would be more inclined to go to a doctor from India. Does that make me a racist? Hell no it doesn't.

Dude, no matter what the justification, whether it be right or wrong, judging someone's ability based SOLELY on their race is, in fact, the very definition of racism. Just b/c I am likely to be right doesn't make it any less racist for me to assume the black guy of the same height is better at basketball than the white guy. It's still stereotyping someone based on their race, i.e. racism.

Politically correct bias, maybe? (4, Insightful)

marco.antonio.costa (937534) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144648)

On the other hand black athletes do overwhelmingly better than white ones. Is it because of discrimination in the granting of NFL contracts to black guys over the whites?

Or it could be that genes that favor physical prowess over raw intellectual aptitude are more present in individuals with dark skin than those who are paler? Maybe the corollary is also possible, that the 'bookworm genes' are about 10% more present in people with white skin.

No, that would be politically incorrect - hell, criminal - to utter, ergo, discrimination on basis of race must be the issue here.

Another example of the 'opressed/opressor ideology' and collectivism that is being the downfall of western civilization on display, nothing to see here folks.

Re:Politically correct bias, maybe? (1)

backdoc (416006) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144772)

I don't have a way to mod you up, but I would if I could....

Re:Politically correct bias, maybe? (1)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144886)

Reading a lot of Ayn Rand lately?

Re:Politically correct bias, maybe? (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144912)

Even if this were true- we would already have weeded out the "non-bookworm" type. By becoming a scientist instead of any one of a number of career paths, you'll likely be a "bookworm gene" carrier.

Re:Politically correct bias, maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37145042)

Your theory could have been true if athletic white males were getting doctorates. Most agree that "bookworm genes" are due to economic status.

Maybe it is color blind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144656)

Maybe the process is already color blind. Maybe these are just the results based on merit. As another poster suggested, affirmative action can only get you so far. On the other hand, maybe it's biased. But, to make an assumption that the process is favoring another race just because they get more papers approved is reverse discrimination and biased, too.

Statistics (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144662)

If I flip a coin 100 times and end up with 60 heads, does that mean the coin favors heads?

Don't assume a system is bias due to the distribution at any single point in time.

Re:Statistics (1)

backdoc (416006) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144806)

Agreed. Mod parent +1.

has anyone looked (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144802)

Has anyone looked at the grants to see? Maybe the ones by blacks aren't actually as good.

We know that statistically blacks have lower IQs. Given that there is more genetic difference between different groups of blacks than there is between blacks and whites, it is reasonable to assume that this is due to environmental factors. However, the grant writers grew up in the same environment, the same America as the rest. It is not unreasonable to investigate that some of the grants might not be as good.

Re:has anyone looked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144878)

This is bullshit .. I bet if they checked .. Blacks who are first generation or recently immigrated from Africa will perform a lot better than American blacks because American blacks have a lot of negative anti-academic pressures.

Re:has anyone looked (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#37145012)

It's worth checking, but does it matter? Was the percentage of African immigrants a statistically significant portion of the grant writers?

How do they know they're black? (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 3 years ago | (#37144868)

Suggestions of "black sounding names" and "black universities" are mentioned. However, with so many blacks NOT having "black-sounding names" this just seems like too big a gap between blacks and white to be purely from that. It would have to mean that those deciding would have to be the biggest racists...

... and perhaps they are- I suspect those who decide are probably older established scientists and studies have shown racism is higher in older generations.

I would prefer to believe (even though it may not be true) that this is more "cultural"- that black scientists are chosing research topics that are not as "culturally appealing" to white review board members... and no, I mean nothing racist by that... There is a cultural and even somewhat a linguistic divide between blacks and whites, and even sub-populations between and ACROSS races- and perhaps their choice of words, or what they value as important research topics disagree...

Just throwing out a "I'd like to believe" statement- I think racism is overall more likely.

the NIH grant review process (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144874)

I'm sorry I just don't buy the idea of subconscious racial bias in grant awarding.

The first thing is that there are almost no black PrincipaI Investigators (a fact which I find truly deplorable).

I was an intramural researcher at the NIH for 5 years, and as part of that went on courses to learn HOW to write NIH grants, and how to run a grant when it was awarded. My years intake of young investigators who were being considered for funding by my Institute all met for a workshop in my final year. Looking around the lecture hall of around 200 or so people from across the country. I was astounded to see that while whites and Asians were fairly equally represented, there was (I think) just a single black scientist there. I don't know if it's a cultural thing that underlies this or what - maybe medical research (versus medical practice) isn't seen as a route to success. But in my view this becomes self perpetuating - the fewer black PIs there are, the fewer possible black mentors and role models there are, and so the fewer black students are inspired to take this route.

As to grant reviewers having an unconscious bias based on schools attended, I call bullshit there.

The way the grant review process works is that a bunch of scientists get invited to the NIH to work on a grant panel. Each grant will be allocated to two members of the panel to read in depth and report on before the panel meets, but the whole panel will have all the grants to read briefly before the meeting. During the (usually 2 day) meeting each grant will be presented to the panel by the readers and the entire panel will then discuss it and rank it. It's an intense process and usually has a fair amount of acrimonious debate going on.

No-one looks at the PIs education when assessing a grant, they look at "is the science solid" "is it novel" "is it important" "does it have cross-over" "can it be achieved in the amount of time allotted" "will students be trained with the money". Once you've assessed all those criteria there's little room for any other bias and little time to even think about it, and if anyone was to say "hmm I don't like the school this guy went to" they'd be thrown out of the room for wasting everyone's time and not invited back. The only historical criteria that gets used is "has this guy worked on this stuff before, and if so how did he do" "has he (or she) published in this area and what was its impact" "does he actually have the skills to do what he's proposing"

NIH is not all science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37144922)

"The Economist" article essentially equates NIH grants to ALL of science. This is patently false of course. It is a generalization that I think most scientists would cringe at. The actually journal article in Science however, makes it clear that this is only NIH grants. I'd like to see this for all granting bodies, NSF, NASA, etc Do the rest of the bodies have the same issues?

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