APA comments on NIH working group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce

APA recommended NIH undertake a thorough scientific examination of the role of potential bias in the peer review process

In January, the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) issued a Request for Information for input into the deliberations of the ACD’s Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce. The Working Group was formed by NIH Director Francis Collins after an NIH report published in the August 19 issue of Science showed that black applicants were 10 percent less likely to receive R01 awards than white applicants.

In its response to the RFI, APA recommended NIH undertake “a thorough scientific examination of the role of potential bias in the peer review process. Various forms of bias — unconscious, implicit, and explicit — should be assessed, and interventions aimed at reducing bias should be developed and tested.  These possible biases should be examined in how they form perceptions and ratings of the individual investigator as influenced by such factors as his/her institutional home, mentors, and previous training, and interactions of these variables where indicated.” APA also encouraged NIH to expand the pool of reviewers to include members of underrepresented groups and to examine the process by which funding decisions are made at the institute level as it affects black and other underrepresented scientists. Although the paper highlighted the discrepancy for black applicants, APA also recommended that the Working Group and other NIH offices continue to carefully evaluate possible funding discrepancies among all traditionally underrepresented groups, including Latino, Asian, Native American, and Alaska Native and those with disabilities.