U.S. To Boost Diversity In Medical Research Workforce
AUGUST 31, 2011
The government agency that recently spent millions on a genitalia-washing program for uncircumcised African men and condoms for Asian drug abusers has determined that Uncle Sam discriminates against a certain group of minority biomedical researchers.It took nearly three years for the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency, to complete an in-depth study that concludes blacks who apply for federal research grants are less likely than whites and Hispanics to receive the awards. The NIH’s director conducted the probe to “learn more about the challenges facing the scientific community” and improve the diversity of its biomedical research workforce. He called the findings “disturbing and disheartening.”As part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the NIH doles out north of $31 billion annually to hundreds of thousands of researchers at thousands of universities and institutions around the world. The goal is to enhance the health of Americans and lengthen their life, though many of its costliest projects seem unrelated to the mission. More on that later.It turns out that, from 2000 to 2006, black researchers who applied for NIH grants were 10% less likely than whites to get the awards, according to the study, which is among the few to focus solely on the racial and ethnic composition of federal research funding applicants. Of additional concern is the low number of “non-white applicants” who apply for the public grants in the first place, researchers found.Why is this happening? Here is one rather interesting theory from the government-funded team of esteemed academics that conducted this particular study; “the quality of educational and mentoring experiences may differ for applicants who self-identify as black or African-American.”The bottom line is this, according to the NIH; “more research is also needed to investigate the conscious or unconscious bias in the scientific review process.” That, of course, means that U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook for yet another lengthy probe on this matter. In the meantime, the NIH is guilty of not equally benefitting “all racial and ethnic groups.”This is the same agency that recently gave an Ivy League university professor more than $2 million to promote condom use among injecting drug addicts in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet socialist republic that serves as a main route for Russia and Europe-bound narcotics. Shortly after, the NIH doled out $823,200 for an equally questionable project that teaches uncircumcised African men how to wash their genitals after having sex to help curb the spread of AIDS.
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