Last month I blogged about the participation of women in NIH extramural programs, and I promised more information when the paper that we prepared in collaboration with the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health came out, so here it is. You can read the full article to delve into the analytical details, but I wanted to highlight a few of the important findings, primarily focusing on the R01 program.
The paper presents two studies. The first, a cross-sectional analysis from fiscal year 2008 data, compared women’s and men’s grant application, success, and funding rates for 17 award programs (plus T32 trainees) that represent a typical “career ladder.” As shown in the figure below, which summarizes data shown in the report, the proportion of women applicants compared to men generally decreased at more advanced career stages. Similar findings appeared in a 2007 National Academies report.
The report goes on to show small differences in the success rates or funding rates between women and men for most research programs. Looking specifically at the R01 program, the sexes had equal success rates (23%); however, women had small and what appear to be persistently lower funding rates than men (26% vs. 28%), presumably because men submit more applications per person than women. When we looked separately at new (type 1) applications, the sexes had nearly equal success and funding rates but there were differences with renewal (type 2) applications where men had higher funding rates. Another bright spot is that women and men awardees both received the same percentage of requested direct costs (87.5%) and women actually received larger awards than men.
The second part of the paper goes on to show that men were more likely to have more than one concurrent R01 awards than women. But, looking at all principal investigators with two, three, or four concurrent awards, the study shows that women attain these milestones when they are younger than men. Honing in on factors that may explain the differences between male and female applicants, the paper shows that proportionately more women proposed human subjects research than men (~50% vs. ~30%), and they were equally successful on those applications. However, it was noted that many of these projects are less likely to be submitted for renewal. Also, women were less successful than men on applications that did not involve human subjects.
Our take… Overall, the authors showed that women have comparable success and funding rates to men for most award programs. And, women awardees, on average, received at least as much as men in direct costs requested per application. However, there remain areas that I think could benefit from improvement, including retaining more women in biomedical research as they climb the career ladder. Continuing to look critically at trends in funding will be important as we move forward.
I encourage you to take a look at the paper by Pohlhaus, J.R.; Jiang, H.; Wagner, R. M.; Schaffer, W. T.; Pinn, V. W., “Sex Differences in Application, Success, and Funding Rates for NIH Extramural Programs” Academic Medicine 86 (6): 759 June, 2011.