Playing Fair? Minority Research Institutions Call for NIH to Address Funding Disparities

By Stuart, Reginald | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, October 25, 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Playing Fair? Minority Research Institutions Call for NIH to Address Funding Disparities

Stuart, Reginald, Diverse Issues in Higher Education

When Ph.D. science and health researchers are seeking financial support, for their health science studies, more often than not they apply to the federal governments National Institutes of Health (NIH) for an RO1 research grant, which boosts a project's standing in the research community as well as the career of the applicant.

In fiscal year 2011, the NIH, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded more than $11 billion in federal tax dollars to researchers at institutions across the country to study health issues in the nation. More than $3 billion went to 10 medical schools, led by Johns Hopkins University with $450.7 million.

Researchers of color, particularly those at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions, are less likely than their non-minority counterparts to share in the NIH RO1 largess. Most of their proposals for NIH funds to help study various health issues are rejected early in the application process, a 2011 NIH study found, confirming years of empirical reports about funding disparities. That helps explain why HBCUs and other historically minority research institutions share such a small portion of NIH money, led by Meharry Medical College with $24.1 million.

The NIH study, focusing on applications filed from federal fiscal year 1999 to 2009, found 73 percent of applications from Black applicants were determined by NIH peer review committees to not be of sufficient scientific merit to be "fully discussed." The determinations effectively disqualified the application from further consideration for NIH funding.

A similar study published this fall in Academic Medicine and focusing on NIH applications filed from 2000 to 2006 by medical doctors of color found a similar pattern, although the disparity was narrower.

NIH funding is considered an endorsement that can be used to attract other funding and the gold card for career promotion in many medical science health research fields. Thus, the rejections may have hampered efforts to get funding from other public and private sources, stunted the careers of some up-and-coming academicians and sidetracked bids by some Black researchers to expand and influence the nation's understanding of health care needs and exposure to new ideas for addressing them, say knowledgeable veterans in the field of health and medical research.

"One can say a lot of good research that could bring unique perspectives and supporting faculty with different concepts about approaching problems got shelved," says Dr. Keith C. Norris, executive vice president for research and health affairs at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. "A lot of proposals that maybe were not part of the usual group, those may have been shelved," says Norris. He has been with Charles Drew, based in Los Angeles, for more than 20 years. During his career, Norris has secured more than $150 million in research grants from the NIH.


The impact of being denied an NIH grant "is actually enormous," adds Dr. Fatima Lima, M.D. and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research at Nashville's Meharry Medical College, where the Ph.D. program is 100 percent African-American. Without NIH funding, applicants are unable to buy supplies and equipment and train, she says. Often, they cannot get promotions, tenure or pay raises.

As important, Lima says, failure to accept research proposals from applicants of color often means health issues of import to poorer communities and people of color don't get full airing. "I go to the NIH a lot," Lima says. "I know when I'm in the room it changes the conversation," she says, citing the importance of having voices "at the table" representing the interests and issues of Blacks and other minorities.

Spreading the wealth

Even before the NIH Ph.D. study, leaders in the HBCU community had begun to speak more about the need for the NIH to address the funding disparities.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Playing Fair? Minority Research Institutions Call for NIH to Address Funding Disparities


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?