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      Topic choice contributes to the lower rate of NIH awards to African-American/black scientists

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          Abstract

          Topic choice is a previously unappreciated contributor to the lower rate of NIH awards to AA/B scientists.

          Abstract

          Despite efforts to promote diversity in the biomedical workforce, there remains a lower rate of funding of National Institutes of Health R01 applications submitted by African-American/black (AA/B) scientists relative to white scientists. To identify underlying causes of this funding gap, we analyzed six stages of the application process from 2011 to 2015 and found that disparate outcomes arise at three of the six: decision to discuss, impact score assignment, and a previously unstudied stage, topic choice. Notably, AA/B applicants tend to propose research on topics with lower award rates. These topics include research at the community and population level, as opposed to more fundamental and mechanistic investigations; the latter tend to have higher award rates. Topic choice alone accounts for over 20% of the funding gap after controlling for multiple variables, including the applicant’s prior achievements. Our findings can be used to inform interventions designed to close the funding gap.

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          Most cited references 22

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          The Matthew Effect in Science: The reward and communication systems of science are considered.

           R K Merton (1968)
          This account of the Matthew effect is another small exercise in the psychosociological analysis of the workings of science as a social institution. The initial problem is transformed by a shift in theoretical perspective. As originally identified, the Matthew effect was construed in terms of enhancement of the position of already eminent scientists who are given disproportionate credit in cases of collaboration or of independent multiple discoveries. Its significance was thus confined to its implications for the reward system of science. By shifting the angle of vision, we note other possible kinds of consequences, this time for the communication system of science. The Matthew effect may serve to heighten the visibility of contributions to science by scientists of acknowledged standing and to reduce the visibility of contributions by authors who are less well known. We examine the psychosocial conditions and mechanisms underlying this effect and find a correlation between the redundancy function of multiple discoveries and the focalizing function of eminent men of science-a function which is reinforced by the great value these men place upon finding basic problems and by their self-assurance. This self-assurance, which is partly inherent, partly the result of experiences and associations in creative scientific environments, and partly a result of later social validation of their position, encourages them to search out risky but important problems and to highlight the results of their inquiry. A macrosocial version of the Matthew principle is apparently involved in those processes of social selection that currently lead to the concentration of scientific resources and talent (50).
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            Experimental study of inequality and unpredictability in an artificial cultural market.

            Hit songs, books, and movies are many times more successful than average, suggesting that "the best" alternatives are qualitatively different from "the rest"; yet experts routinely fail to predict which products will succeed. We investigated this paradox experimentally, by creating an artificial "music market" in which 14,341 participants downloaded previously unknown songs either with or without knowledge of previous participants' choices. Increasing the strength of social influence increased both inequality and unpredictability of success. Success was also only partly determined by quality: The best songs rarely did poorly, and the worst rarely did well, but any other result was possible.
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              • Abstract: not found
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              The Matthew effect in science. The reward and communication systems of science are considered.

               R K Merton (1968)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Sci Adv
                Sci Adv
                SciAdv
                advances
                Science Advances
                American Association for the Advancement of Science
                2375-2548
                October 2019
                09 October 2019
                : 5
                : 10
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Office of Portfolio Analysis, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
                [2 ]Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
                [3 ]National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
                [4 ]Scientific Workforce Diversity, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
                [5 ]Office of Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
                Author notes
                [*]

                Present address: National Cancer Institutes, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland, USA.

                []Corresponding author. Email: george.santangelo@ 123456nih.gov
                Article
                aaw7238
                10.1126/sciadv.aaw7238
                6785250
                Copyright © 2019 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License 4.0 (CC BY-NC).

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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