Asian applicants are less likely than those of other races to receive National Science Foundation grants, according to a new study in the journal eLife.
The study analyzed more than 1 million grant applicants from 1999 to 2019 and found that Asian researchers received grants at a rate 21.2 percent less than average.
White scientists were funded most often, winning grants at a rate 8.5 percent greater than scientists overall for those two decades.
Black researchers were funded 8.1 percent less often than the average, according to the review. But they were the least likely to win funding in five of the NSF’s seven scientific categories.
In recent years, the gaps have grown.
In 2019, NSF received 41,024 proposals and selected 11,243 for funding — an overall rate of 27.4 percent. Of those proposals submitted,
- 31.3 percent of white researchers received funding, four percentage points more than the average
- 29 percent of Hispanic or Latino researchers were funded
- 26.5 percent of Black researchers were funded
- 22.7 percent of Asian researchers were funded
If Asian and Black applicants were funded on par with the overall funding rate, 432 more Asian-led and nine more Black-led research proposals would have received awards.
Why it matters: NSF is responsible for more than a quarter of federally funded basic research in the U.S. In 2021, it issued more than $8 billion in awards to researchers at American colleges and universities.
In the world of scientific research, NSF’s funding disparities aren’t unique.
The National Institutes of Health, the other major funder of scientific research in the U.S, was found to fund Black-led research at half the rate as white-led in a 2011 study. Disparities in funding have also been observed between male- and female-led research.
“There’s a whole series of discoveries we haven’t seen because people have been excluded,” said Aradhna Tripati, one of the co-authors of the article and the founder of the Center for Diverse Leadership in Science. “We can’t afford to keep doing that.”
NSF responds: Confounding variables, especially related to career stage and prior experience in grant writing, may be at play, said Alicia Knoedler, head of the NSF’s Office of Integrative Activities. “The more experienced you are at writing grants, the better able you are to obtain that funding,” she told Grace.
But a 2018 study comparing NIH grant awards found experienced white researchers received more funding than Black scientists with similar experience.
That study’s authors pointed to a phenomenon of “cumulative advantage.” White scientists likely received more mentorship and advice early on than Black scientists, they wrote, leading to their publications getting more citations.
What NSF is doing about it: The foundation invests in capacity-building programs, early career outreach and minority-serving institutions to broaden participation among people of color. New initiatives include:
- Analytics for Equity, which will provide funding for researchers investigating equitable access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics research and education opportunities
“NSF is one part of the solution space,” Knoedler said, adding that K-12 education, companies and private foundations must also help to make scientific fields more equitable and diverse.
The White House weighs in: On Monday, the White House announced a $1.2 billion initiative to improve equity in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine at its first ever summit on equity and excellence in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
This is where we explore the ideas and innovators shaping health care.
South Koreans have found a way to get younger … by law. As of next June, they will start counting their age from zero on their birthdays. Most South Koreans currently say their babies are one on their birthdays, then add a year every New Year’s Day.
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Today on our Pulse Check podcast, Megan Messerly talks with Lauren Gardner about the introduction next year of biosimilars that will compete with the arthritis medication Humira, the best-selling drug in America, and what that could mean for patients.
Efforts to extend a law expanding access to telehealth for the more than 30 million Americans on high-deductible health plans have hit a snag in the House Ways and Means Committee.
What’s next: If Congress doesn’t act, high-deductible health plans wouldn’t be able to cover telehealth visits before patients hit their deductibles after Dec. 31.
That would make a lot of people on those plans unhappy. About 90 percent of high-deductible health plans that were members of the ERISA Industry Committee, a trade association, took advantage of the telehealth provision this year, up from more than 80 percent in 2021 and more than 60 percent in April 2020.
Insurers like the provision because they want to encourage patients to use telehealth, which can be less expensive than in-person care.
Hundreds of firms and industry groups have pushed for an extension, including the American Benefits Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Connected Health Initiative, whose steering committee includes Apple, Microsoft, the American Medical Association and UnitedHealth Group.
The negotiation: Democrats view extending the policy as a Republican ask and want new funding for climate-change resiliency for health care institutions in return, according to a GOP aide granted anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.
A spokesperson for Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in an e-mail that it “would be premature to make any additional characterization about the conversations.” The spokesperson added: “Given the Committee’s significant work on climate and health, there is interest in moving the ball forward by providing funding for quality improvement organizations to work with hospitals on resilience.”
Why it matters: Democrats have been more hesitant than Republicans in the past to bolster high-deductible health plans, though a number of Democrats have backed legislation that would extend the telehealth provision. Critics of the plans say they can be financially risky for subscribers.
The backstory: Congress first allowed insurers to cover pre-deductible virtual visits in the March 2020 CARES Act Covid-19 relief package to help people see their doctors during the pandemic.
Congress let the provision expire at the end of 2021 before reinstating it in a March spending package.
Federal health and consumer protection agencies last week launched an updated interactive tool to help health app developers learn about the federal rules that apply to their software.
The tool is a joint creation of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights and its Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the FTC and the FDA.
Why it matters: Health apps must comply with federal data-privacy, cybersecurity and data-sharing rules, among others.
The agencies said their new tool aims to provide a map through the regulatory thicket.
“The burgeoning market for health apps holds promise for consumers, but only if — and this is a big if — app developers understand their legal obligations and honor those responsibilities,” wrote FTC senior attorney Lesley Fair in a blog post.
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