Minority preferences

Anton Scott Goustin asg at cmb.biosci.wayne.edu
Thu Jun 15 19:03:36 EST 1995


Every year, about 5000 new and competing NIH grants are awarded.  The 
vast majority are awarded on the basis of a peer-review system.  In this 
system, most grants are investigator-initiated (the R01 grant), and are 
awarded on the basis of a review by an Initial Review Group (IRG) or 
"study section".  One may complain that the study sections tend to be 
biased favorably towards people and institutions they personally know 
(i.e., an "old boy's/girl's club"), as many junior faculty complain.  I 
completely disagree with your diagnosis of minority preference in this 
system.  Minorities fare particularly poorly in this peer-reviewed 
system, favoring as it does "old boy's".  To remedy this bias inherent 
in a peer-review system, the NIH does have a small number of grant 
opportunities restricted to "underrepresented minorities".  The 
operative word here is "small"; I know for a fact that in AIDS research, 
only 1-3 of these will be awarded to minorities this year, compared to 
about 500 new grants in AIDS in general (not restricted to minorities).  
Thus, only 1% (or less) of NIH grants are minority-designated, not 75% 
as you state!

I fully defend these minority "set aside" programs in science.  They 
make it easier for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to pick up 
speed in the hellish-competitive world of NIH grants.  These programs 
enable Universities to recruit faculty that they otherwise would turn 
away as "non-competitive for funding".

If you really want to piss and moan about bullshit, piss and moan about 
the frigid climate for funding of basic research.  The last two 
Republican presidents socked it to NIH, favoring applied research over 
basic research.  Clinton has been even worse!  Worse yet are the Newt 
Wave Republicans, who tried to cut NIH funding last month by 10% per 
year for the next five years!!!!!  This is a time when NIH funding 
should be increasing by 10% per year, since it stimulates America's best 
homegrown industry today:  biotechnology.  Many leaders in the 
pharmaceutical industry signed a letter protesting these Newt Wave 
budget hacking on NIH.  Fortunately, thanks to one enlightened 
Republican from Oregon (Mark Hatfield), the Newt Wavers lost the vote, 
and NIH fared better for 1996 and beyond.  Hatfield persuaded most of 
the Democrats and some of the Republicans in the Senate to reject the 
budget stab for NIH last month, by a vote of 86-14.

Save your energy to lobbying for more Federal and State funding for 
basic research, Kepley.  Don't worry, the Newt Wavers will do their very 
worst to destroy minority set-asides in the next year or so.  What you 
should worry about, is that the Newt Wavers want to bring down the 
Federal Government and biomedicine in general.  They figure that the US 
is too technologically-advanced as it is and research only makes the 
situation worse.  Believe it or not, that is their philosophy.  Ask Newt 
Gingrich himself, he's written a tract on his mischief.





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