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Issue 127 Spring 2018

Endocrinologist > Spring 2018 > Hot topics

Success of female grant applicants: science versus scientist

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This year marks a century since some women were given the vote in the UK. Currently, 40% of European science and engineering doctorates are awarded to women, 33% of junior faculty are female, and 11% of senior faculty are female. Gender balance remains elusive.

Witteman et al. analysed the results of 23,918 grant applications from 7,093 unique applicants over 5 years across all open, investigator-initiated, Canadian Institutes of Health Sciences grant programmes from 2011 to 2016. When the review focused on the quality of the proposed science, the gap was negligible, but when the review focused on the principal investigator, the gap was 4.0% in favour of male principal investigators. Similar data have been reported in the USA, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Whilst one could argue that a 4% difference is small, these data show that biases (often unconscious) remain. The authors suggest that training of reviewers improves balance. The Wellcome Trust data show that whilst 75% of senior awards are held by men, awards are offered to men and women in equal proportion. By highlighting these issues and understanding why lack of gender balance happens, hopefully we can change behaviours to ensure the best science is funded, regardless of who is submitting the proposal.

Read the full article in bioRĪ‡iv doi:10.1101/232868

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