A 2011 Science paper by Ginther et al. reported a significant racial gap in NIH R01 equivalent grant funding, illuminating a lack of diversity among investigators conducting NIH-supported biomedical research. After controlling for numerous confounding factors, a persistent gap in funding remained for African American/Black scientists, with the success rate for applications supporting African American/Black scientists about half that of non-Hispanic Whites. Similar disparities were apparent in NIH K-series career development awards.
In response, the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), through its Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce, looked critically at the entire NIH ecosystem, making 13 recommendations to enhance the inclusion of individuals from underrepresented groups in biomedical research.
Narrowing the Funding Gap
The NIH began implementing the ACD’s recommendations in 2014. This work is ongoing, and the NIH is seeing promising evidence that the racial funding gaps are narrowing. The racial and ethnicity funding gap for K awards has been eliminated and based on most recent data (FY 20 and 21) appears to be narrowing for R01-equivalent awards (98% of which are R01s). Moreover, during the same period, the number of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups majoring in biomedical sciences increased dramatically in the United States.
Although these positive data trends signal the NIH’s ability to eliminate racial and ethnic funding gaps across all NIH grant mechanisms, the small pool of applicants from underrepresented groups for R01 grants is both a challenge and an opportunity for deriving targeted solutions.
The following figures and table show the latest funding rates and personal demographic data for Principal Investigators (PIs) for Research Program Grant (RPG) applicants.
View more data from the NIH Office of Extramural Research
Figure 1: Funding rates for Research Project Grant (RPG) Principal Investigators, (PIs) 1998-2021
Table 2: RPG PI Characteristics FY2021. Characteristics of scientists designated as Principal Investigators (PIs) on at least one Research Project Grant (RPG) application submitted to NIH in FY2021 according to self-designated race-ethnicity.
Figure 2: Number of unique RPG applicants (scientists designated as PIs by their institutions on RPG applications submitted to NIH) FY2010-FY2021 according to self-designated race-ethnicity.
As shown in figure 2, the absolute number of self-designated Black/African American and Hispanic applicants remained low between FY2010-FY2021. This is consistent with data of underrepresented groups from the National Science Foundation. However, the data presented in figures 3 and 4 find a substantial increase in the relative number of Black/African American and Hispanic applicants, respectively.
Figure 3: Number of unique self-designated Black RPG applicants (scientists designated as PIs by their institutions on RPG applications submitted to NIH) FY2010-FY2021.
Figure 4: Number of unique self-designated Hispanic RPG applicants (scientists designated as PIs by their institutions on RPG applications submitted to NIH) FY2010-FY2021.
Figures 5 and 6 present funding for Type 1 RPG and Type 1 R01 PIs from FY2010-FY2021. The differences by race/ethnicity appear to narrow in the last two years of the data collection period.
Figure 5: Funding rates for Type 1 Research Project Grant (RPG) Principal Investigators (PIs) 2010-2021 according to self-designated race-ethnicity.
Figure 6: Funding rates for Type 1 R01 Principal Investigators (PIs) 2010-2021 according to self-designated race-ethnicity.
Published Research and Editorials
- Bernard et al., The US National Institutes of Health approach to inclusive excellence
- Collins et al., Affirming NIH’s commitment to addressing structural racism in the biomedical research enterprise
- Ginther et al., Race, Ethnicity, and NIH Research Awards.
- Ginther et al., Are Race, Ethnicity, and Medical School Affiliation Associated with NIH R01 Type 1 Award Probability for Physician Investigators?
- Ginther et al., Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and National Institutes of Health R01 Research Awards: Is There Evidence of a Double Bind for Women of Color?
- Hoppe et al., Topic choice contributes to the lower rate of NIH awards to African-American/black scientists
- Lauer et al., Associations of topic-specific peer review outcomes and institute and center award rates with funding disparities at the National Institutes of Health
- Lauer & Roychowdhury, Inequalities in the distribution of National Institutes of Health research project grant funding
- Ten Hagen et al., Community voices: NIH working toward inclusive excellence by promoting and supporting women in science
- Valantine & Collins, NIH Progress toward inclusive excellence