As a black physician in a competitive, predominately white profession who — much like PhD candidates — required many years of training, I am disappointed and frustrated for my black scientist colleagues.
It is unfortunate that, despite graduate and doctorate degrees from top universities and impressive scientific achievement on par with other candidates, race remains a limiting factor.
Today’s study looked at grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health, the largest source of funding for medical research in the world.
No other ethnic group was found to have disparities in rejection rate.
According to the NIH, race and ethnicity are included as part of the grant application, but that information is not available to the reviewing committee.
However, the article goes on to mention the possibility of subconscious biases triggered by candidate names that imply certain ethnicities, or clues such as whether the applicant attended a historically black college or university.
Reading this felt eerily similar to reading the 2003 study where Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Chicago researchers took two candidates with the same credentials but put different names on the header.
Resumes were submitted in both Boston and Chicago, and recruiters were 50 percent more interested in Brendan, Gregg, Emily and Anne than Tamika, Aisha, Rasheed and Tyrone.Similar findings were published by the National Bureau of Economic Research that same year.
“One of the things that initially attracted me to careers in the sciences was that I believed science to be a meritocracy,” says Dr. Kevin Beck, an NIH fellow at the University of California, San Diego, who is white. “Those with the best work published the best papers, got the best jobs, and got the most funding.”
But, Beck adds: “After being in science for more than I decade, I no longer hold that viewpoint as strongly. While merit is important, science, like everything else, is a business and is political.”
My strongest concern is what this says to our budding black scientists further down the pipeline – black PhD students or undergrads on the road to either a PhD or the combined MD and PhD degree programs.