Racial inequity in grant funding from the US National Institutes of Health

Elife. 2021 Jan 18:10:e65697. doi: 10.7554/eLife.65697.


Biomedical science and federal funding for scientific research are not immune to the systemic racism that pervades American society. A groundbreaking analysis of NIH grant success revealed in 2011 that grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health in the US by African-American or Black Principal Investigators (PIs) are less likely to be funded than applications submitted by white PIs, and efforts to narrow this funding gap have not been successful. A follow-up study in 2019 showed that this has not changed. Here, we review those original reports, as well as the response of the NIH to these issues, which we argue has been inadequate. We also make recommendations on how the NIH can address racial disparities in grant funding and call on scientists to advocate for equity in federal grant funding.

Keywords: National Institutes of Health; bias; equity, diversity; funding; inclusion; peer review; systemic racism.

MeSH terms

  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.) / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research Support as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Systemic Racism / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States