Does the NIH Really Have a Racial Preference Problem?

Last Updated on January 17, 2022 by Shaun Snapp

Executive Summary

  • The NIH has come under fire for not giving out enough grants to non-white proposals.
  • We review the accuracy of this claim.

Introduction

The NIH has come under fire for being racist.

Our References for This Article

If you want to see our references for this article and other related Brightwork articles, see this link.

A Problem in Biomedical Research or in the NIH?

The following is the diversity page at the NIH.

The NIH has been critiqued for not giving grants in a non-white enough fashion, as can be seen in the following graphic.

This is a quote on this topic.

Saying structural racism is a chronic problem throughout biomedical research and within their own walls, leaders of the National Institutes of Health Thursday unveiled a plan intended to eliminate a big gap in grants awarded to white and minority scientists and boost funding for research on health disparities. – STAT

This quote seems to jump topics between racism in biomedical research versus racism in the NIH. These are not the same thing. And as I will cover, some non-whites submit and receive more grants than whites. This nuance is not reflected in this previous quote.

The STAT article continues.

The agency, the largest funder of biomedical research in the United States, said it would also expand a program to recruit, mentor, and retain researchers from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and appoint diversity and inclusion officers at each of its 27 institutes and centers.

The report says NIH leaders failed to acknowledge numerous firsthand accounts of racism in the workplace and the organization has failed to attract, retain, and promote scientists from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. Less than 2% of NIH senior investigators are Black.

Published in the journal Cell, the plan acknowledges that structural racism is a problem throughout society and says “biomedical science is far from free of its stain.” Not only have people of color experienced health inequities for centuries, the report notes, but scientists of color have been stymied in their careers by not getting adequate funding and other support from NIH. – STAT

This, again, is a very general statement. Less than 2% of NIH senior investigators are black, but few blacks with scientific education, which I will provide the statistics for in a few paragraphs. Therefore it is not demonstrated that this small number of senior executives being black is due to racism.

Advocates working to address inequities in science said they were encouraged by the NIH plan but said it is unlikely to bring about major changes, and they called on the agency to put much more money into the initiative. “There is no doubt there is a sincere desire on the part of NIH leadership to address this question, but is this enough to really move the needle?” asked Freeman Hrabowski, a Black mathematician and president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. – STAT

Are these advocates working to “address inequities in science,” or are they special interest groups designed to lobby for their racial group only. We will see in a moment that people behind giving more black scientists grants…just so happen to be black. This is not addressing inequities in science. This is advocating for grants and jobs for your group. There is a significant distinction between supporting a principle and just promoting one’s interests.

The STAT quote continues.

Like many Americans, leaders of the NIH started grappling with the issue of racism in earnest after the murder of George Floyd last summer, at a time when those at the NIH — whose mission is to seek and apply knowledge to enhance the health of all people — were already reeling from the racial health inequities the coronavirus pandemic had laid bare. – STAT

What does the NIH have to do with George Floyd?

Let us review the logic here.

If a black man is killed by police officers, does the NIH need to address racial inequities? Is the NIH related or somehow connected to policing in Minneapolis, or even policing nationwide? Did the NIH deny George Floyd a grant? Was George Floyd even a scientist, or did he have an interest in science?

The connection is obviously not logical. What if a Chinese man were to be killed by police in Minneapolis? Would it be time for the NIH to address the grants it gives out to grant submitters of Chinese descent?

The STAT article continues.

“I talk about this being a tipping point. There really has been a significant change in viewpoint nationwide and in the scientific community,” said Marie Bernard, the chief officer for scientific workforce diversity at the NIH and one of the leaders of the new effort, called UNITE. “This is an unparalleled opportunity to make change.” – STAT

Wait, what is the tipping point?

Is the tipping point the death of George Floyd? Because if so, then Marie Bernard is speaking nonsense. This is not a sufficiently specific comment. However, Marie Bernard’s only job at the NIH is to preference non-whites over whites regardless of merit. That is what diversity coordinators at companies do.

The plan’s release comes after Collins in March apologized that the agency had not done enough to address racism.

The NIH doles out more than $40 billion in research dollars each year. The agency has been sharply criticized for entrenched disparities that see Black researchers funded at a rate barely half that of white researchers — 55%, a gap that has remained steady for the past decade. – STAT

This statement is later contradicted by the graphic that is shown in the STAT article. This is an exaggeration of the case, according to the 2013 statistics. However, this has dramatically narrowed according to the statistics in 2020, as is shown in the following graphic.

  
Blacks used to have about 1/2 the approval rate of white grant applicants. However, that has significantly changed since 2013. Why was this increase not mentioned anywhere in the article?

It appears as if the NIH has already greatly addressed any discrepancy. And this is because the NIH has been trying to increase the percentage of non-white grant recipients for many years now, as the following quote attests.

The NIH already supports more than 60 “diversity and inclusion initiatives,” but those have apparently failed to eradicate NIH’s own “systemic and structural racism.” Neurologists, molecular biologists and nanophysicists seeking NIH funding must now submit a plan showing how they will “enhance diverse perspectives” throughout their research. Scores on the “plan for enhancing diverse perspectives” will inform funding decisions. – WSJ

This is a concern because now the grant submitters will undoubtedly be considered in grant approval, and the NIH’s budget has taken on a social justice funding program. By giving more grants to black and Hispanic submitters, even if the grants don’t lead to anything of value for society, the NIH can point to its progress.

The speed of the change in the approval percentages is suspicious. One has to ask, were the increased grants awarded to black and Hispanic applicants due to the quality of their submissions improving, or is the NIH simply referencing black and Hispanic applicants to make their numbers look good? Were blacks and Hispanics discriminated against, or were their submissions generally of lower quality than whites and Asians. Blacks, in particular, didn’t just lag whites in grant approval percentages in 2013. They lag Hispanics and Asians as well. In 2013 was the NIH very pro-Asian, Hispanic, and white while being anti-black?

This topic is answered in the following quotation.

NIH is determining research priorities to maximize the number of black grant recipients. – WSJ

There is a clear answer.

The NIH has been awarding grants using race as an essential factor. The quality of black NIH grant submissions likely did not improve very much from 2013 to 2020 (that is only seven years). Instead, the NIH began preferencing not only black proposals.

Overall the far more significant issue is the number of non-white non-Asians that apply for NIH grants. Overall grant approval rates for all races have been increasing since 2013.

Black and Hispanics are applying for grants, but they don’t do so anywhere near their proportion of the US population. There is a far lower percentage of black and Hispanic scientists versus their populations, so how that is the fault of the NIH is hard to see.

The black level of grant submission looks striking low, except that blacks are around 1/7th as likely to have a scientific education than the rest of the US population — this is expressed in the following quotation.

In 2019, 20 blacks nationwide received a doctorate in a neuroscience field—1.9% of all such degrees awarded in the neurosciences. There were three newly minted black Ph.D.s in biophysics (1.7% of the total) and 21 in biochemistry (2.6% of the total). Genetics and genomics departments graduated three black Ph.D.s (2.3% of the total), and molecular-biology departments 14 (2.5% of the total). In electrical engineering, a feeder into nanotechnology, there were 18 black Ph.D.s (1% of the total). – WSJ

To apply for a grant to the NIH, it is necessary to have a scientific education. If one does not have this, why would they have any interest in performing scientific research?

The following quotation addresses this issue of the lack of blacks with science Ph.D.’s in a bizarre fashion.

Hrabowski chaired a National Academies panel investigating how to improve diversity in STEM a decade ago, when just 2.1% of people with doctoral degrees in science were Black. Today, it is 2.3%. “We really have not made much progress,” he said. “The question we have to ask our society — and NIH — is what will it take to change the culture?”

This is a deliberately deceptive statement. The question of what society will do and what the NIH will do are two separate questions. The second question is what the NIH will do, but the NIH can’t increase the number of blacks that have the scientific training to apply for NIH grants.

First, many more blacks that go to college could specialize in science educations. There is no admission restriction allowed based on race in the US. Blacks are given preferential treatment to enter universities that those of other races with identical scores would not be accepted. So there has already been much attention and resources allocated to provide blacks with educational opportunities.

Hrabowski continues this stream of problematic logic in the following quotation.

Hrabowski said he believed solving long-standing problems such as unequal research funding and low numbers of scientists of color would require far more funding than the report had pledged. He said universities also needed to work harder to increase the pool of scientists of color in a position to apply for NIH grants by supporting them from their undergraduate years through graduate school, postdoctoral positions, and their first faculty jobs.

Again, how does NIH funding affect the number of qualified black science PhDs? Secondly, do universities need to address all discrepancies?

For example, most nursing students are women. Should men be coaxed into nursing schools, even though few men actually desire to be nurses?

The following is a quote in a similar vein.

Omolola Eniola-Adefeso, a Black professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, has been sharply critical of funding disparities at NIH.

The graphic shows that the primary discrepancy is not grants awarded as a percentage (and there is already evidence that less deserving proposals are getting approved to increase the NIH’s black statistics). It is the small number of blacks with science PhDs.

Eniola-Adefeso continues.

In February, she and a large group of fellow women biomedical engineers wrote an editorial called “Fund Black scientists,” which cited evidence that Black scientists must spend twice as much time on grants in order to be funded at the same rate as white scientists and are less likely to receive tenure in part because they don’t receive as many large NIH grants such as R01s. “NIH must change course,” the group wrote. – STAT

This quote does not acknowledge that the primary issue is the much smaller numbers of black science PhDs that can even apply for a grant. And the NIH has already made large accommodations for black scientists, including giving them grants for proposals that are not competitive. Yet, this group of race scammers makes it sound like the NIH has never made any adjustments. And in the following quote, Eniola-Adefeso makes her true objective known.

She said the NIH needed to repair the grant review process that has led to so little funding for Black scientists and, if they could not do that, simply fund more Black scientists, regardless of what topics they study. Since there are so few Black principal investigators, – STAT

So Eniola-Adefeso proposes that black scientists should be funded….because they are black and not because of the topics they study. This is a straight racial quota for grants and would end with black scientists sending evidence that they are black to the NIH, determining their funding requests, and then skipping the part about submitting an actual proposal.

Eniola-Adefeso then tries to preempt any criticism of this ridiculous plan.

But a plan to fund Black investigators, she and her co-authors noted in their editorial, would likely cause a “backlash from loud and privileged members of the majority.” These types of uproars, they noted, are what allows racism to persist. – STAT

This is curious because I am not a science Ph.D. and will never submit a grant proposal to the NIH, and I don’t like this idea. Eniola-Adefeso has redefined racism as opposed to blacks being funded because they are black. Yes, if blacks are funded for being black, then this is racism, and only those who are privileged would have a problem with it. But isn’t that the definition of racism?

I observed that every one of the black scientists who provided quotes to STAT provided either ridiculous or entirely illogical explanations for what to do about the low level of black scientists that receive NIH grants — and several of them don’t appear to understand what is the primary issue regarding why so few black receive NIH funding — and their commentary was in general quite disorganized. If these are prominent black scientists, they are poor representatives of blacks in science.

The following quote describes some of the reasons for the lower approval of black submissions to the NIH.

Erosheva and Lee focused on the actual scores that applications received from 2014 to 2016. They found that in every metric, black researchers tended to score lower than white researchers did. The new study does not ask why, but earlier research, including an analysis published last year by the NIH, has found that black applicants are more likely to propose studying health disparities, which are less likely to be funded by the agency.

When the NIH receives grant applications, they’re read and scored by reviewers on five criteria: significance, innovation, approach, environment, and how well suited the investigators are to the project. Applications also receive an overall score. About half the applications make it past this round to a phase in which they’re reviewed by a panel. Those reviewers don’t know applicants’ race, but they can see applicants’ names and some information about their other published work, Erosheva said.

Erosheva and Lee focused on the actual scores that applications received from 2014 to 2016. They found that in every metric, black researchers tended to score lower than white researchers did. The new study does not ask why, but earlier research, including an analysis published last year by the NIH, has found that black applicants are more likely to propose studying health disparities, which are less likely to be funded by the agency. – Chronicle

Curiously, this point was left out of the STAT article. It was also never addressed in the comments by NIH director Francis Collins. This means he accused his organization of racism without providing any nuance or reason for the discrepancies pointed out by NIH critics, many of whom are race scamming.

Asian Grant Submission

What is left out of the article and the argument against white preference is that Asians appear to write a higher percentage of grants than whites as a percentage of the US population?

  • Asians are only 6% of the US population.
  • I could not find the exact number of Asian science PhDs in the US, but my best guess is around 10%.
  • However, they apply for 39% of the grants that whites do, while whites have a population around ten times higher than the number of Asians.
  • This means that Asian PhDs are roughly six times more likely to submit a proposal for a grant than whites.

Why Are Asians Writing So Many Grant Proposals to the NIH Versus The Number of Asian Science PhDs?

Why are so many Asians applying for grants with the NIH? Is this a factor that the NIH will address Asians are not ten times more likely to work in science versus whites?

Whites have a four percentage point advantage over Asians in accepting their grant proposals (or a 14% advantage). However, that pales in comparison to the number of overall grants awarded to Asians because they apply for so many grants as a percentage of the population.

Which Discrepancies are Noticed?

This discrepancy is so high, and it brings up the question of something very odd going on. And the NIH has had to investigate NIH grant submissions that are agents for the government in China, as is explained in the following quotation.

Some 54 scientists have resigned or been fired as a result of an ongoing investigation by the National Institutes of Health into the failure of NIH grantees to disclose financial ties to foreign governments. For 93% of the 189 scientists whom NIH has investigated to date, China was the source of their undisclosed support.

“It’s not what we had hoped, and it’s not a fun task,” NIH Director Francis Collins said in characterizing the ongoing investigation. He called the data “sobering.” – Science

It took an investigation for Francis Collins to be made “sober?”

The Chinese have targeted the US for IP theft for decades and have been caught numerous times already. Collins would have to ask why the grant proposals are so out of proportion with the percentage of Asian PhDs and then investigate. Collins is an accomplished scientist but just not very good at basic math and ratios.

The quote continues.

In the vast majority of cases, Lauer reported, the person being investigated has been an Asian man in his 50s. Some three-quarters of those under investigation had active NIH grants, and nearly half had at least two grants. The 285 active grants totaled $164 million.

Lauer also presented data on the nature of the violations that NIH has uncovered. Some 70% (133) of the researchers had failed to disclose to NIH the receipt of a foreign grant, and 54% had failed to disclose participation in a foreign talent program. In contrast, Lauer said, only 9% hid ties to a foreign company, and only 4% had an undisclosed foreign patent. Some 5% of cases involved a violation of NIH’s peer-review system.

Lauer said the fact that 82% of those being investigated are Asian “is not surprising” because “that’s who the Chinese target” in their foreign talent recruitment programs.

Lauer’s presentation also provided a glimpse into the scope of that broader investigation. There are 399 scientists “of possible concern” to NIH, he told the advisory council, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has fingered 30% (121) of them. An additional 44 have been flagged by their own institutions. Of that pool, Lauer said, investigations into 63%, or 256 scientists, came out “positive.” – Science

This smacks of racial discrepancies only being noticed when the whites have an advantage and ignored when a non-white group has the advantage. Yet, the discrepancy for Asians applying for NIH grants is far larger than that for blacks. Yet the claim is that the NIH is structurally racist. However, blacks only represent roughly 2% of the science PhDs in the US, which roughly matches their NIH grant submissions, (and the problems in their submissions being out of synch with the NIH have been discussed — as has how the NIH has lowered its standards for black submissions since 2017) however, this is considered a massive issue and evidence of NIH racism.

However, a far larger discrepancy, which is totally out of proportion with the percentage of Asians in the US that hold science PhDs versus the number of NIH grant submissions goes unnoticed and without mention. It was not mentioned a single time in the STAT article or in other articles I found on the supposed issues of racism in the NIH.

How Many Chinese Scientists in the US Are Agents for the Chinese Government?

One reason for it may be that so many Chinese are functioning as agents of the CCP and are being supported to scam the NIH out of funding.

It also questions the pro-white bias at the NIH, as Asians are receiving such a disproportionate total number of NIH grants.

Learning About Corruption the Part of Francis Collins

The following describes just some of the corruption at the NIH.

The NIH has always aimed to fund scientists based on their ideas and accomplishments, but under Collins’s big science paradigm, money is increasingly doled out based on researchers’ willingness to sacrifice their autonomy and creativity to Bethesda’s plans. Scientists are herded into consortia and spend endless hours on conference calls to produce data that are of fleeting value.

Collins’ has further corrupted the process of peer review by becoming too close to leaders of the major research institutions, who have had an outsized role in shaping billions of dollars of NIH initiatives, and then benefited disproportionately when funds from these projects were distributed.

The US has led the world in training biomedical scientists, attracting many of our most talented minds into science. Central to this was the expectation that they could build stable careers based on NIH funding. But under Collins this system has collapsed. “Young” PIs generally do not receive their first grants until they are in their 40’s, spend an increasing amount of time seeking funds, and no longer feel they can count on NIH funding.

Scientific progress almost always begins with basic discoveries. But in his efforts to curry favor with Congress, Collins has consistently promoted translational research with a dubious track record over basic biomedical research. He has involved the NIH in massive translational projects that are either premature or that the NIH is ill-prepared to carry out.

Finally, science as an endeavor involved building on the research of others. However Collins’s NIH is mired in a serious reproducibility and reliability crisis. Confidence in NIH funded research is at an all-time low, and Collins has responded with bureaucratic measures that have little hope of correcting the problems, while leaving untouched the perverse incentives that lead to the production of unreliable research.

Fortunately, destroying the greatest scientific engine humanity has ever created takes time. The US remains the global leader in biomedical research, with a talented and creative scientific workforce eager to tackle pressing problems in basic science and public health, and a diverse array of commercial enterprises ready to turn their discoveries into products that improve the health and well-being of our citizens. There are many thousands of talented and dedicated people at the NIH. But more time with Collins at the helm would be a disaster. – Michael Eisen

Conclusion

The NIH is a highly corrupt institution, its budget has zero relationship with the health of the nation, which is something the head of the NIH has a hard time explaining as is covered in the article How The NIH Head Tries to Explain Why the NIH Funding Does Not Improve Health. The least of the problems with the NIH is that it does not apportion enough grants to black scientists. However, I did not read a single statement by black critics of the NIH that was related to anything on the topic of the NIH’s efficiency or effectiveness in improving the health of the nation. Their only concern appears to be if enough funding is getting to blacks. Furthermore, the call for black scientists to be funded by the NIH without respect for what they are researching, does not seem to indicate that black critics of the NIH have any interest about the efficiency of the NIH.