Archive for the 'Underrepresented Groups' category

Kington calls out one of the thousand cuts

Kington, as in Raynard Kington (PubMed), senior author of the Ginther et al. (2011) report that identified poorer NIH Grant success for African-American applicant Principal Investigators. Also as in previous Principal Deputy Director of the NIH Kington and current President of Grinnell College Kington.

He had an observation in The Scientist recently, responding to their coverage of him in context of Ginther et al, which included this bit:

And so I was dismayed by a recent news story on www.the-scientist.com about our report that seemed to prove our point about the existence of such unintentional bias. The story identified me as an “African-American scientist,” as have other stories I’ve read over the years.

Is that who I am? And if yes, is it relevant to my research?

Let me answer the second question first. The Scientist article to which I refer mentioned four scientists—and I was the only scientist who was identified by race. Moreover, the article didn’t mention any other demographic characteristics about me—not my age, my gender, my ethnicity, my sexual orientation, my geographic location, not even my current job as president of one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. Nor did it include demographic information about the three other scientists mentioned in the story.

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Faces of Drug Abuse Research: Jean Lud Cadet, M.D.

Jean Lud Cadet, M.D. [ PubMed, GoogleScholar, DepartmentalPage ] is the Chief of the Molecular Neuropsychiatry Research Branch in the Intramural Resarch Program at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Within this branch he heads the Molecular Neuropsychiatry section which has maintained major interests in dissecting the toxic effects of methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA on the brain using rodent models. He has a recent review article Epigenetics of Methamphetamine-Induced Changes in Glutamate Function that you might find of interest.

PhotoCredit: ASBMB

PhotoCredit: NIDA IRP

According to an interview with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Dr Cadet received his MD degree from Columbia University and completed residencies in Psychiatry at Columbia University and in Neurology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Cadet indicates in the interview that it was chance notice of an announcement for a fellowship in Pharmacology at the NIMH IRP (which he secured and spent time as a Neuropsychiatry Fellow) that cemented his interest in research. Going by the PubMed record, it was during this time that Dr. Cadet became interested in movement disorder related to dopamine disruptions which foreshadowed his eventual interest in damage to dopaminergic functions caused by stimulant drugs. After the Fellowship, Dr. Cadet became Assistant Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University and then subsequently moved to the NIDA IRP in 1992.

Dr. Cadet is also the Associate Director for Diversity and Outreach within the NIDA IRP and, per an interview with the ASMBM Dr. Cadet states:

As the Associate Director for Diversity and Outreach, my greatest passion is the recruitment of young scientists from under-represented populations into various NIH programs. I have been in charge of recruiting summer students into the NIDA-IRP since 1995. I am also the chair of the Diversity and Outreach Committee (DOC) that is actively recruiting young scientists from under-represented groups. This committee has recently reached out to Patterson High School, a neighborhood high school. Two Patterson junior students are now serving internships in basic science laboratories at the NIDA-IRP. Using funds that were recently provided by the Scientific Director of NIDA-IRP, the DOC has also established a competitive application process that has helped to recruit 6 post-baccalaureate and/or post-doctoral fellows within the NIDA-IRP. I am relentless in my pursuit of Diversity within the NIDA-IRP and my activities together with those of DOC members are helping our intramural program to serve as a beacon to be followed by others.

I thank you Dr. Cadet for both furthering our understanding of the ways in which exposure to stimulant drugs of abuse can disrupt the brain and your efforts to extend opportunities within science to those who are of underrepresented racial or ethnic backgrounds.

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Post-baccalaureate program at NIDA IRP

Prior entries in this series overview the contributions of Yasmin Hurd, Carl Hart, Chana Akins and Percy Julian.

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New study concludes no bias in NIH grant review

via Bashir-

A new paper has been published that purports to refute the conclusion of the Ginther report (also see this, this, this, this) that there exists substantial bias in the awarding of NIH grants to white versus black PIs.

Jiansheng Yang, Michael W. Vannier, Fang Wang, Yan Deng, Fengrong Ou, James Bennett, Yang Liud, Ge Wang A bibliometric analysis of academic publication and NIH funding Journal of Informetrics 7 (2013) 318– 324 [ journal link ]

My biggest concern here has to do with the sampling...otherwise I guess we should view it as data that contributes to the overall picture. Much as Ginther et al drew a host of "oh it must really be..." alternative explanations, so should this.

The authors targeted 92 medical schools (1) and selected 31 odd-number-rank schools (2). They identified white and African American faculty members (from, ah, web page pictures and, um "names". also "resumes as needed".(3)) They then did a 1:2 pairing of black with white faculty in the same discipline, with the same degree and within the same medical school (4), same sex and title/academic rank.

So. They were able to identify 130 black professors of which only 14 were funded by the NIH from 2008 to 2011(5). Two were excluded because they couldn't find matching white faculty and one for failing to have any SCI/Web of Science presence (this was used to generate h-index, citations etc).

Eleven. Eleven faculty (out of 130) members, plus an additional 22 matched white faculty, comprise the sample for the correlation of scientific productivity with grant award. Kinda thin.

They took the rankings of the medical schools from US News and World Report and divided the institutions into thirds "Tiers". Ten of the grant sample pairs came from the top third of medical schools and one from the second tier (6)

In Table 2 the paper lists the mean (7) papers, citations and a couple of productivity indices they made up (8). Black investigators had fewer papers (but not significantly different), significantly fewer citations (9) and significantly lower Pc-index.

Second, the productivity measure in terms of peers’ citations, or the Pc-index, is the sum
of the numbers of citations to one’s papers weighted by his/her a-indices respectively. While the Pr-index is useful for
immediate productivity measurement, the Pc-index is retrospective and generally more relevant.

There was no difference in the PcXImpactFactor index. Interesting how they describe the one that identified a difference as "most relevant" isn't it?

Then we move on to tables 3 and 4 in which the authors show that if you "normalize" the PIs' award funding by the various performance measures (10) there is no difference between black and white professors.

There are a few more complaints about the earlier part of the study but that isn't really focused on the grant-getting so I'll leave it for now. It reflects the entire 130 pair sample and examines the productivity measures. There are interesting tibits in the fact that they only had significant differences in the Asst professor ranks. In the larger NIH-grant picture, perhaps their excuse of too few black Full and Associate professors for analysis is highly meaningful for the overall disparity of grant award? Then there was the observation of differences only in the Assistant professors at the top one-third of medical schools but not in the bottom two thirds.

I'll end with my observations:

1) why not academic departments? what proportion of the NIH PI population is at medical schools versus regular academic departments? what about non-University institutions?

2) why not all of them?

3) really? like they never heard of passing. Also "white"? What sort of "white" are we talking here? How do we know their sample of white medical school faculty matches the overall NIH sample of white PIs?

4) so the sample had to be really narrow here because they had to find disciplinary descriptions broad enough that they even had an AfricanAmerican professors represented. This will not be the case everywhere.

5) isn't the whole issue that is at the heart of Ginther those investigators who were NOT funded by the NIH? That's what assessing the disparity is about....figuring out if there are "missing" investigators who should have been funded by were not. Right? Determining whether those funded black investigators are as good as a sample of white investigators is beside the point. I really need to chase down the exact quote but one of the ERA era leaders said something to the effect that women will enjoy true equality not when they can succeed by being better than all the men but when all they have to do is be as good as the worst men in a given workplace. The same logic applies here. The focus should be on the whole distribution of funded investigators. It is irrelevant if, say, black investigators who "should" be at Tier 2b Med school are really employed at Tier 1c Med schools. What matter is if there are black scientists who are just as good as Tier 3f Med school white investigators but are not getting the funding their counterparts are enjoying.

6) ok, whut? why this skew for the top end? if they sought to focus on the elite, why not just sample all of the schools in the top third? or once you get past this the NIH grants are few and thin on the ground? particularly for black investigators perhaps? or for both white and black professors?

7) all of a sudden the white sample is down to 11, should have been 22. I can't figure out what they did here.

8) the a-index they base much of this on seems to be an attempt to parse author credit depending on position in the author list, number of authnors, etc. yeah....that's not resting on a bunch of subfield(9) practice equivalencies, is it?

9) yeah, the disciplinary "matching" isn't working for me here. if the pairs were within Medical School and within discipline presumably this means within Department. This is almost certain to mean that the pairs differed in subdisciplinary issues like model, technical approaches, etc. Differences that can be even more significant contributors to citations than are the broad disciplinary labels. Now true, we'd want to know if there was any evidence that black investigators were more likely to be in lower citation, slower pub rate subfields...

10) This also depends on their being a direct and positive correlation between funding and "productivity". As one example, human imaging research is really expensive, generates papers slowly, rarely ends up in CNS journals and probably isn't cited that highly. People who do such work are living in the same pharmacology, psychiatry and neuroscience departments that contain bench jockey labs shiving each other in the back to race to the latest CNS scoop job. Same title, same department but....comparable? please. oh yeah, see 9) again.

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Repost- Faces of Drug Abuse Research: Yasmin L Hurd, Ph.D.

This first went up on the old SB blog in Feb of 2009.


YasminHurd.jpgYasmin L. Hurd, Ph.D. is Professor of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics as well as Psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Medical Center (PubMed; Hurd Lab; Department; Research Crossroads) .
As is overviewed on the "research" tab of her webpage, Professor Hurd has longstanding interests in mesocorticolimbic areas that are affected by drugs of abuse. Her areas of concentration include the in vivo neurochemical responses to drugs, the influence of drugs on fetal brain development and the molecular and biochemical changes that might be associated with dependence.
Professor Hurd obtained her doctorate in 1989 from the Karolinska...Okay, right there your brain should go 'click'.

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An interesting historical note on the plight of younger investigators and the Ginther report

Jan 28 2013 Published by under NIH, NIH Careerism, NIH funding, Underrepresented Groups

As noted recently by Bashir, the NIH response to the Ginther report contrasts with their response to certain other issues of grant disparity:

I want to contrast this with NIH actions regarding other issues. In that same blog post I linked there is also discussion of the ongoing early career investigator issues. Here is a selection of some of the actions directed towards that problem.

NIH plans to increase the funding of awards that encourage independence like the K99/R00 and early independence awards, and increase the initial postdoctoral researcher stipend.

In the past NIH has also taken actions in modifying how grants are awarded. The whole Early Stage Investigator designation is part of that. Grant pickups, etc.
...
I don't want to get all Kanye ("NIH doesn't care about black researchers"), but priorities, be they individual or institutional, really come though not in talk but actions. Now, I don't have any special knowledge about the source or solution to the racial disparity. But the NIH response here seems more along the lines of adequate than overwhelming.

In writing another post, I ran across this 2002 bit in Science. This part stands out:

It's not because the peer-review system is biased against younger people, Tilghman argues. When her NRC panel looked into this, she says, “we could find no data at all [supporting the idea] that young people are being discriminated against.”

Although I might take issue with what data they chose to examine and the difficulty of proving "discrimination" in a subjective process like grant review, the point at hand is larger. The NIH had a panel which could find no evidence of discrimination and they nevertheless went straight to work picking up New Investigator grants out of the order of review to guarantee an equal outcome!

Interesting, this is.

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Thoughts on the NIH followup to the Ginther report

are offered by Bashir.

Even if these recommendations were enacted tomorrow, and worked exactly as hoped, the gains would be slow and marginal. #1 seem to more address the problem of under representation.

Go play over there.

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Nature excoriates self for sexist behavior, vows to improve

The general science journal Nature has an interesting editorial up:


Earlier this year, we published a Correspondence that rightly took Nature to task for publishing too few female authors in our News and Views section (D. Conley and J. Stadmark Nature 488, 590; 2012). Specifically, in the period 2010–11, the proportions of women News and Views authors in life, physical and Earth sciences were 17%, 8% and 4%, respectively. The authors of the Correspondence had taken us to task in 2005 with a similar analysis for the authorship of our Insight overview articles, and gave us slight credit for having improved that position.

they then went on to perform some additional reviews of their performance.


Our performance as editors is much less balanced.
Of the 5,514 referees who assessed Nature’s submitted papers in 2011, 14% were women.
Of the 34 researchers profiled by journalists in 2011 and so far in 2012, 6 (18%) were women.
Of externally written Comment and World View articles published in 2011 and so far in 2012, 19% included a female author.

then, after the inevitable external blaming they actually get down to it.

We therefore believe that there is a need for every editor to work through a conscious loop before proceeding with commissioning: to ask themselves, “Who are the five women I could ask?”

Under no circumstances will this ‘gender loop’ involve a requirement to fulfil a quota or to select anyone whom we do not know to be fully appropriate for the job, although we will set ourselves internal targets to help us to focus on the task.

HAHHAHAAH. "We're going to have quotas but we're not using quotas!" Good one Nature!

What a load of crap. People in academia and other places that are dealing with representativeness need to just stop falling for this right-wing, anti-affirmative-action, anti-diversity bullshit talking point. Quotas are just fine. Numbers are the way clearly discriminatory and unequal practices are revealed and they are the only way we're going to know when we've improved.

But...regardless. Good on Nature for this one.

For the rest of you, keep the spotlight shining brightly upon them. Because they admit themselves that this gender inequality of their pages has been brought to their awareness as long ago as 2005 and. they. still. haven't. really. improved. Make no mistake, improving diversity on any measure is not easy. It takes highly sustained attention, effort and force of will to change entrenched, unthinking* cultural biases. Not everyone in the organization will even agree with the goals expressed in this editorial and will work harder to find excuses not to change than they do to make improvements. So I don't expect miracles.

But Nature, you are a premier venue of scientific publication which gives you a very high platform from which to enact cultural change. I do hope you are not blowing smoke on this one.

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*which they are for the most part.

17 responses so far

If you can play, you can play

Apr 26 2012 Published by under Hockey, Underrepresented Groups

Also, if you get the GWG against the defending Stanley Cup champions in OT of Game 7 in the playoffs...well, you sure as hell can play.

Keep it classy, Bruins fans, keep it classy.

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Collins appoints Gary H. Gibbons, M.D. to head NHLBI

Apr 06 2012 Published by under Diversity in Science, Underrepresented Groups

I've been seeing the Tweets about the recent appointment of Gary H. Gibbons, M.D. [Pubmed] to head the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute over the past day or so. I admit, I've been tempted to crack wise about the upcoming appointments of Charles B. Chimpanzee at NIAAA and Omar P. Orangutan at NIGMS and the like*. But for the most part, not being all that interested in pumps and airfilters and such, I was uninterested. Well, I finally read the Press Release. Morehouse School of Medicine, eh? Dare we hope? Continue Reading »

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Repost- Faces of Drug Abuse Research: Carl L. Hart, Ph.D.

As I noted on the repost for Percy L. Julian, Ph.D., earlier this week, I'm swamped this month. So for Black History Month I'm offering up reposts. Today's installment features a scientist who authored a paper I had occasion to blog a few weeks ago and my email box reports has just been elected to the Board of Directors for the academic society College on Problems of Drug Dependence. This post originally appeared on the Sb blog Feb 2, 2009.


CarlHart.jpgAssociate Professor Carl L. Hart, Ph.D. (PubMed; Department Website; ResearchCrossroads Profile) of the Psychology and Psychiatry Departments of Columbia University conducts research on several drugs of abuse with concentrations on cannabis and methamphetamine. In his studies he uses human subjects to determine many critical aspects of the effects of recreational and abused drugs including acute and lasting toxicities as well as dependence. Dr. Hart is also a contributing member of the New York State Psychiatric Institute Division on Substance Abuse.
In his academic research role, Professor Hart works within the highly respected and very well known Substance Use Research Center of Columbia University where he directs both the Methamphetamine Research Laboratory (Meth R01 Abstract) and the Residential Laboratory. The blurb for this latter will give you a good flavor for the workaday of Dr. Hart's work:

The residential laboratory, designed for continuous observation of human behavior over extended periods of time, provides a controlled environment with the flexibility to establish a range of behaviors, and the ability to monitor simultaneously many individual and social behavior patterns. This laboratory is equipped with a closed circuit television and audio system encompassing each individual chamber for surveillance and measurement purposes, and to provide continuous monitoring for the participant's protection. We believe that this relatively naturalistic environment can best meet the challenge of modeling the workplace to predict the interaction between drug use and workplace variables. Because our participants live in our laboratory with minimal outside contact, we are able to evaluate multiple aspects of the effects of drugs on workplace productivity in the same individuals.

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