Research funding from the National Science Foundation shows racial disparities

A major US research funder found that over the past two decades, from 1999 to 2019, white researchers were paid disproportionately less for research than those of other races.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) selects 20-30 percent of the proposals submitted each year.

Published in Research eLife white researchers consistently received more than the overall average (+8.9%). Asians (-21.2%) and Pacific Islanders (-11.3%) received the lowest year-over-year percentages.

nsf chart

Rosie Alegado, associate professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, co-authored the study. He said, “However, it was shocking to see how large the difference in funding rates was, showing very clear systematic differences from year to year.”

From 2013 to 2019, more than 70% of NSF awards went to research. The remainder participated in non-research programs such as community activities, education, and conferences.

Research proposals showed greater racial disparities than non-research proposals. While funding rates for white researchers gradually increased, research proposals from almost all groups were funded at lower rates than non-research research.

Research proposals by white researchers received nearly twice as much funding as proposals by black researchers. Only 46 to 63 percent of awards to black researchers were for research.

nsf data graph

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