Research ArticleSCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY

Topic choice contributes to the lower rate of NIH awards to African-American/black scientists

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Science Advances  09 Oct 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 10, eaaw7238
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw7238
  • Fig. 1 Funding gap between AA/B and WH scientists at each stage of the R01 application and review process.

    Arrows on the left indicate the number of AA/B and WH R01 applicants in FY 2011–2015. The total number of applicants with a reported race/ethnicity is 45,998. Rocket charts depict the number of applications that were submitted, discussed, and funded per applicant. Comparative rates of discussion, funding of discussed applications, and overall funding rates are presented on the top right (**P < 0.01).

  • Fig. 2 Effect of impact score on discretionary funding and resubmission rates.

    (A) The distribution of percentile scores for funded and unfunded Types 1 and 2 R01 applications submitted by AA/B (red bars) and WH scientists (blue bars). (B) Resubmission rates by impact score range for unfunded, unsolicited Type 1 R01 applications (FY 2011–2015) from AA/B and WH applicants and (C) AA/B and WH applicants by career stage. ND indicates applications that were not discussed and therefore not scored. All pairwise comparisons between resubmission rates for AA/B and WH applicants within each impact score range in (B) and (C) are not statistically significant (P > 0.07).

  • Fig. 3 Distribution of applications from AA/B scientists across topics.

    (A) Red bars show the percent of applications from AA/B scientists in each topic cluster, ranked from highest to lowest. Clusters were initially defined based on content similarity; thus, clusters that are numerically close also tend to have relatively similar content. Of all applications from AA/B scientists, 37.5% belong to the first eight clusters; at the other end of the distribution, eight clusters contain no applications from AA/B scientists. Because of space constraints, every other cluster number is reported on the x axis; cluster numbers for the first and last eight clusters are highlighted on the graph. (B) Number of applications in (orange bars) and (C) award rate for (blue bars) each topic cluster, ranked by percentage of applications from AA/B scientists in each cluster [i.e., same ranking as in (A)]. The dashed red line represents the overall R01 award rate (16.3%). In the 25 clusters with a significantly above average award rate (see table S6), the number of applications from AA/B scientists was too small to determine how they fared relative to applications from WH scientists.

  • Fig. 4 Topics most and least commonly proposed by AA/B scientists.

    (A) Topic clusters with the highest percentage of applications from AA/B scientists. (B) Topic clusters with no applications from AA/B scientists. Word clouds are placed in a clockwise orientation relative to the order shown in Fig. 3A. Cluster numbers are presented alongside overall award rate (cluster number/award rate). (C) Distribution of applications and awards for AA/B scientists across topics in the NIH portfolio. Each node in the network represents a topic cluster, and related topic clusters are grouped inside blue borders and labeled (rectangles). Node size correlates with the number of applications from AA/B scientists, and nodes are heat mapped by the number of funded applications from AA/B scientists in each cluster. GI, gastrointestinal.

  • Table 1 Effect of percentile score on award rate.

    Percentage of applications funded for each percentile range. n/a indicates that there were no applications in the given range.

    Percentile range% AA/B funded% WH funded
    0–497.4%97.2%
    5–995.9%97.0%
    10–1473.9%76.1%
    15–1928.3%37.6%
    20–2422.4%15.4%
    25–2910.3%6.0%
    30–344.0%2.8%
    35–390.0%0.9%
    40–440.0%0.6%
    45–490.0%0.4%
    50–540.0%0.2%
    55–590.0%0.2%
    60–640.0%0.0%
    65–69n/a0.0%
    70–740.0%0.0%
    75–79n/a0.0%
    80–840.0%0.0%
    85–89n/a0.0%

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplementary material for this article is available at http://advances.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/5/10/eaaw7238/DC1

    Table S1. Attributes of R01 submissions by race of applicant.

    Table S2. Distribution of AA/B and WH PIs across institutional funding quintiles.

    Table S3. Comparison of the proportion of applications from new investigators by race (R01 Types 1 and 2, FY 2011–2015).

    Table S4. Comparison of impact scores for R01 applications from AA/B and WH applicants (Types 1 and 2, FY 2011–2015).

    Table S5. Comparison of word2vec topic assignment to human SME annotation.

    Table S6. Statistically significant variation in the award rates of topic clusters.

    Table S7. Topics favored by AA/B applicants compared to topics with no AA/B applicants.

    Table S8. Effect of topic choice on funding gap throughout the R01 application process.

    Table S9. Effect of removing variables from regression models (awarded given discussed).

    Table S10. Reviewer demographics for all study section meetings that considered R01 applications (FY 2011–2015).

    Fig. S1. Racial differences in the number of unique R01 applications submitted per applicant (Types 1 and 2, FY 2011–2015).

    Fig. S2. Funding gap between AA/B and WH scientists at each stage of the R01 application and review process at institutions in the highest and lowest NIH funding quintiles.

    Fig. S3. Comparison of career age distributions for AA/B and WH scientists.

    Fig. S4. Time between initial application submission and resubmission.

    Fig. S5. Distribution of topics across study sections.

    Fig. S6. Comparison of topic choice variation by race.

    Fig. S7. Award rates by topic cluster size.

    Fig. S8. Scientific influence for higher and lower success topics.

    Fig. S9. Comparison of scientific influence for publications linked to awards from higher and lower success topics by percentile score.

    Fig. S10. Scientific influence of publications by new investigators before and after receiving their first award.

    Regression analysis results for all variables

  • Supplementary Materials

    The PDF file includes:

    • Table S1. Attributes of R01 submissions by race of applicant.
    • Table S2. Distribution of AA/B and WH PIs across institutional funding quintiles.
    • Table S3. Comparison of the proportion of applications from new investigators by race (R01 Types 1 and 2, FY 2011–2015).
    • Table S4. Comparison of impact scores for R01 applications from AA/B and WH applicants (Types 1 and 2, FY 2011–2015).
    • Table S5. Comparison of word2vec topic assignment to human SME annotation.
    • Table S6. Statistically significant variation in the award rates of topic clusters.
    • Table S7. Topics favored by AA/B applicants compared to topics with no AA/B applicants.
    • Table S8. Effect of topic choice on funding gap throughout the R01 application process.
    • Table S9. Effect of removing variables from regression models (awarded given discussed).
    • Table S10. Reviewer demographics for all study section meetings that considered R01 applications (FY 2011–2015).
    • Fig. S1. Racial differences in the number of unique R01 applications submitted per applicant (Types 1 and 2, FY 2011–2015).
    • Fig. S2. Funding gap between AA/B and WH scientists at each stage of the R01 application and review process at institutions in the highest and lowest NIH funding quintiles.
    • Fig. S3. Comparison of career age distributions for AA/B and WH scientists.
    • Fig. S4. Time between initial application submission and resubmission.
    • Fig. S5. Distribution of topics across study sections.
    • Fig. S6. Comparison of topic choice variation by race.
    • Fig. S7. Award rates by topic cluster size.
    • Fig. S8. Scientific influence for higher and lower success topics.
    • Fig. S9. Comparison of scientific influence for publications linked to awards from higher and lower success topics by percentile score.
    • Fig. S10. Scientific influence of publications by new investigators before and after receiving their first award.

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    Other Supplementary Material for this manuscript includes the following:

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