NIH$$ for Girls < NIH$$ for Boys

In a recent post that I was motivated to write after an article appeared in Science regarding the proportion of women in all ranks from training period on up to senior faculty, and the rates of NIH funding for women versus men… commenter JC kindly provided a link to a report of an NSF sponsored study done by the Rand Science and Technology Policy Institute (covers years 2001-2003, I couldn’t find more recent ##s after an (admittedly) cursory look)- entitled ‘Gender Differences in Major Federal External Grant Programs’ authored by Hosek et al. in 2005.  Buried under that review article that I was writing, I didn’t actually get a chance to look at anything beyond table 3.4 in that report from just last night. I’ll just quote directly from the ‘Key Findings’ section:

With two important exceptions, we did not find gender differences in federal grant funding outcomes in this study. At NSF and USDA, over a recent three year period (2001–2003), there were no differences in the amount of funding requested or awarded. We found the same result when we looked at surveys of scientists, social scientists, and engineers. In one of the surveys (the 1999 NSOPF), there were differences in tabulations of the raw survey results, but those differences disappeared when we adjusted for other characteristics, including the researcher’s discipline, institution, experience, and past research

The major exception was at NIH, where female applicants in 2001–2003 received on average only 63 percent of the funding that male applicants received. One third of this gender gap is explained by the under representation of women among top 1 percent award winners. If we eliminate the very large awards and also control for other characteristics—age, academic degree, institution, grant type, institute, and year—the difference narrows again. Nevertheless, the gender gap is still 17 percent, which means that women still receive only 83 percent of what men receive when it comes to grant funding. (bold is mine)

Now, the next paragraph contains a list of qualifiers on things the authors couldn’t control for in the NIH part of this study- because certain data like the NIH data is for PIs only (no co-PI), no info about academic discipline, no research rankings for the applicant’s university, AND the NIH data don’t include the amount of funding that the applicant requested. This last point means that the authors can’t determine whether the lower amount awarded to women is a result of smaller requests, or agency determinations on how much to award… or both.

And you might think – what’s the big deal… all things are equal over at NSF, and USDA- so what if the scale is a little tilted over at the NIH. For those of you who are having this thought consider that the basic and applied research budget breakdown (for 2001 the total basic/applied research expenditures were $43 Billion)  by agency went something like this (in 2001):

  • NSF  $3.05 Billion
  • USDA $ 1.81 Billion
  • DHHS (Dept. of Health and Human Services), specifically NIH $20.67 Billion

These three agencies were responsible for 60% of all research funding, and for 80% of all extramural grants in the same year. Oh and one more thing- only 1% of the USDA budget is spent on extramural research, while 68% and 72% of the budgets of NSF and NIH respectively are spent on extramural research.

The operative data for NIH data can be found in table 3.4, which I will kindly reproduce for you… right here:

Maybe this is old news to y’all. But… if not, as my dad would say- what do you think about them apples? Still think all things are equal for the girls??

(And with this I’ll remind you that Title IX prohibits discrimination against women in ANY U.S. educational activity, including the distribution of federal research $$.)


18 thoughts on “NIH$$ for Girls < NIH$$ for Boys

  1. Hmmm … very interesting indeed. The difference in the total number of applicants was alarming enough but 83% of the funding $$$s?? As you pointed out though, it would be interesting to see whether the lower award $$$s was due to asking for less, being given less or both (I suspect it’s probably both).

  2. PiT- Yeah- probably a combination of both… but if we are asking for less… we’ve got to figure out why we are asking for less -is this just our nature that we don’t want to be considered greedy,and we aren’t being advised otherwise? Then how do we fix that…

  3. This data is far more compelling than the Science article discussed before. At least they looked at cohort effects. If I have some time, I’m curious pour over the data a little more. I still suspect that the bulk of the disparity is due to female under-representation at the most productive, later years of research. There aren’t too many 60 something women in science, but the big money usually goes to older scientists… more than just the top 1%.

    Still, it’s disturbing at face value.

  4. jc- I always meant to- I’m just a little slower than usual lately. Holidays. Review Article. Kid with Whooping cough. When it rains it pours!

  5. And just to be clear on this: Anyone suggesting to a junior faculty that they submit any R01 with any budget request other than a full five-years at max modular ($250,000 directs per year) is giving shitty advice.

  6. Ok, so I went shopping to take a brain break, and ya know, my damn brain wouldn’t turn off about this stuff. my therapy needs therapy.

    Here’s what’s swirling in my little skull. A colleague got funded from NSF for big bucks (over a million $, which is bigger than the normal NSF awards for 100-300k including indirect costs). The program director called him and said that he needs to ADD to his budget (seriously!) to take into account some things he left off (somewhere around 15k for student travel and supplies, etc), and that there’s ‘extra’ money in the pot to disperse.

    So, since grant$$$women<men from fed agencies which SHOULDN’T be allowing this crap to continue, something should be done. I propose that the ‘extra’ money left after fully funding the top ranks, but not enough to fund the next proposal down, should be doled out to the funded projects with female PIs in that program for that round to bring their grant$$$ up to the AVERAGE of that round.

    Let’s say the average across 10 funded proposals is 300k, 2 women PIs projects were less (say each 270k), then why not have the program director call each of them women up and say “here’s 30k… you forgot to take into account that $$$women<men and we are a federal agency that (supposedly) shows no gender bias in funding.” Cookies for everyone. This is my little contribution to Teh Revolushun.

  7. The sad thought I had as I read these statistics is that this means women in science are doing better than women in most professions. Yes, this is grant dollars and not salaries (and maybe our salaries are lower than 83% of our equally experienced male colleagues), but most women make less than 80% of a male’s income:

    Germany: 78%,,3398935,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-ger-1023-rdf
    UK: 73%
    USA (from 2004): 75.5%

    So, not a great situation for us ladies in science, but it’s more equitable in science than in most other careers. *sigh*

  8. C PP- I totally concur with that. BUT- in my informal survey of jr faculty (men and women) MANY of them are getting advice to apply for less than the full 5 modules. I think that’s crazy- but that’s just me (and you apparently).

    jc- Interesting idea- I’ll have to mull it over a little before I can give you a thoughtful reply.

    phagenista- Well, there’s that. I don’t know how our actual salaries compare- I’m sure there are ##S somewhere. Also- I added you to my blogroll because I like your blog.. I hope that’s ok with you (adding it to the blogroll I mean)!

  9. I wonder what the data looks like for PIs requesting modular R01s. The 7.39M limit well outside this range. My guess is that the men do better than the women, because the men are running departments and centers and thereby are the “PI” on training grants, and center grants and so forth, but I wonder if there’s such a difference when it comes to the actual spear-chucking boys and girls on the gritty leading edge of actually doing the science.

  10. I’m shocked, especially once the variables are controlled somewhat properly (unlike in gender – wage studies)

    On the other hand, I don’t feel so bad after watching the bias girls – and I do mean GIRLS – receive in schools. Somehow I don’t get nearly as worked up about a 30 year old woman gets only 83% of what she requested as I do when a 12 year old boy receives less support from the national, state, and local educational systems.

    One of my female counterparts said she tended to favor male applicants more than females because boys with the same grades have to be more dedicated and work harder than the girls in school.

  11. Whimple- I believe the #s at the bottom are the numbers once large center type awards have been removed. And on that note- WHY are there fewer women running centers anyway? Is that just a ##s thing?

    Aaron- Huh? I don’t work in primary or secondary education- so I can’t speak to this point at all, outside of my own personal experience. … in which I was not favored in public school outside of my obviously being a good kid who worked hard. I don’t know if you have statistics to support your contention… but I sure hope you do?! I would find it difficult to believe that a ‘bias’ against women suddenly appears once they leave secondary school, and enter the professional world.

  12. I can believe this data (on face value) but then again I cannot believe it (never would have guessed that the disparity is that severe). I agree with matthew above, this is very compelling, much more so than that in the Science article. The disparity in dollars per grant is flat out shameful. When you see numbers like this administratively what do you do? I imagine I would keel over.

  13. JP-

    I confess my jaw dropped when I saw those ##s the first time. I was sure I must be missing something, that’s one reason (among others) that I didn’t post anything because I wanted to read the accompanying text.

    I have no idea what one does as an administrator when one sees such numbers. Do you suppose anyone (POs, SRAs, anyone like that) is looking??

  14. I say we should fund the women scientists more nowadays – – science is becoming increasingly collaborative and women simply *communicate better* than men. It makes sense in my mind.

  15. Do you suppose anyone (POs, SRAs, anyone like that) is looking??
    I can’t imagine that they aren’t aware. In fact, thinking more carefully about this, some recent comments from one of our big pain POs at a meeting make a lot more sense. Still, I’ve never heard them discussed openly.

  16. Clearly, the problem persists, but it would be more helpful to know whether there was any progress on it. the degree to which the data is unsettling depends largely on its context within a wider time frame. Seeing Prop 8 pass was a depressing thing for progressives, and yet only a cynical fool would look at such a tight margin and not think, “Wow, there’s really been a seismic shift in public attitude on these issues toward a more tolerant and inclusive outlook relative to just 20 yrs ago; maybe we’re getting somewhere?”.

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