A study — written by minority researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) — said that NSF, the multi-billion dollar government agency, was racist because it didn’t give enough funding to minority researchers. The paper called for more anti-racism efforts, even though by far the largest statistical disparity in the study was the low level of funding to Asians, perhaps a result of existing anti-racism policy which says that affirmative action should go to black and Hispanic applicants, but not Asians.
The paper — in concert with another NSF-funded paper that claimed physics is racist in part because physicists used whiteboards, and the bumbling response to the coronavirus pandemic by government science officials — reveal a U.S. government science apparatus that is flirting with giving up on measures that fuel prosperous, healthy, and technologically advanced societies, such as objectivity and merit.
“Systemic racism manifests at the NSF as higher funding rates for proposals by White PIs than those by non-White PIs, conferring a cumulative racial advantage,” the paper said. It said there was a “surplus” of grants to white people, suggesting a quota.
However, the paper’s data for the most recent year of 2019 actually showed that when it came to the size of grants, Hispanics got larger-than-average grants, while black students got grants that were about average. The major difference was that Asians got far less than average, and that the difference appeared to go to white applicants.
That’s despite the fact that Asians dominate in U.S. math and science competitions. The glaring disparity could be the result of government anti-racism initiatives that prioritize black and Hispanic, but not Asian people, as oppressed minorities, it said.
“At NSF, the URM [Under-Represented Minority] category consists of Black/AA, AI/AN [American Indian], NH/PI [Pacific Islander], and Hispanic or Latino (excluding non-Hispanic White and Asian), and is used to track and allocate resources to programs aimed at broadening participation in STEM,” it said. “Reliance on the URM category may have also influenced NSF funding outcomes for Asian PIs, who are not considered URM yet experience the largest disparity in funding rates amongst all non-White racial groups.”
The paper also said that black people’s grant proposals were consistently rated by panels of peers to be of worse quality than others’, and the only explanation considered was racism — even though the reviewers didn’t know the race of the applicants. “A decade of efforts at NIH demonstrated that catchall solutions such as increased bias-awareness training and blinding peer review were inadequate as blanket solutions. … While self-reported demographic data are not visible to the reviewers, PI race or ethnicity may be inferred from proposal content or personal knowledge,” it said.
Awarding research funding based on merit perpetuates racial disparities, the paper suggested. “Outside experts with field-specific expertise provide feedback on the merits of a proposed project. … The use of merit review criteria to find and fund ‘the best ideas and the best people’ is motivated by a shared understanding that the integrity of research knowledge relies on individual and collective adherence to principles of objectivity, honesty, and fairness. However, a vast body of research shows that systems designed to facilitate impartiality and merit-based rewarding can instead perpetuate the very biases they seek to prevent,” it said.
It said instead of evaluating science projects based on the “proposal’s potential to advance knowledge (intellectual merit),” the evaluation process should weigh the applicant’s commitment to social justice. “Proposals can include evidence of healthy work environments, from the establishment and tracking of equity metrics, to improved diversity of leadership, workforce, and trainees,” it said. “As the federal steward for basic research and science workforce development, the NSF must lead efforts to achieve racial equity in STEM, modeling the change it aspires to see in other organizations and sectors.”
NSF confessed to its racism in response, with an unnamed spokesman telling a science publication that “there is still much [work] to do.”
The paper says its researchers were supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and “the Center for Diverse Leadership in Science at UCLA, which is funded by the Packard Foundation and Sloan Foundation.”
The authors were baffled why many scientists increasingly didn’t want to tell the government their race. “We also observe an emerging trend in the non-reporting of demographic information: from 1999 to 2019, the proportion of proposals submitted by PIs who provided information on their race decreased from 96% to 76%,” it said.
Democrats have claimed to be the “party of science,” even though science is now apparently racist. In February, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) slowed the approval of an affordable cancer drug, citing that it was Black History Month and not enough of the clinical trial subjects were black. In May, a top FDA official in charge of evaluating new drugs was involuntarily transported to the hospital for a “mental disorder,” according to police records.