Research proposal to detect racial bias wins prize

Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, November 4, 2014

Peer ReviewA proposal for research to detect racial bias in the research peer review process has earned a second-place prize from the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR) for two College of Human Ecology faculty members: Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci.

NIH sponsored the national “Great Ideas” contest in response to recent findings that African-American principal investigators have a 10.4 percent lower funding rate on NIH grant proposals. The goal was to encourage the development of novel approaches to study and understand the mechanisms leading to the black funding deficit, as well as ways to address the issue.

The professors of human development outlined experiments to answer the question: Do investigator race and/or ethnicity of topic target population (considered separately as well as together) influence research evaluations? “By better understanding why and under what conditions reviewers assign lower scores to grants by African-American PIs, we can target solutions to ensure optimal impact of resources for solving the problem and eliminating inequalities in the grant-review process,” Williams and Ceci wrote.

Williams and Ceci were awarded a cash prize of $5,000 for their “Great Idea.”