Download icon

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: Racial inequity in grant funding from the US National Institutes of Health

  1. Michael A Taffe  Is a corresponding author
  2. Nicholas W Gilpin  Is a corresponding author
  1. University of California, San Diego, United States
  2. Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, United States
Feature Article
  • Cited 1
  • Views 8,950
  • Annotations
Cite this article as: eLife 2021;10:e65697 doi: 10.7554/eLife.65697


Biomedical science and federal funding for scientific research are not immune to the systemic racism that pervades American society. A groundbreaking analysis of NIH grant success revealed in 2011 that grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health in the US by African-American or Black Principal Investigators (PIs) are less likely to be funded than applications submitted by white PIs, and efforts to narrow this funding gap have not been successful. A follow-up study in 2019 showed that this has not changed. Here, we review those original reports, as well as the response of the NIH to these issues, which we argue has been inadequate. We also make recommendations on how the NIH can address racial disparities in grant funding and call on scientists to advocate for equity in federal grant funding.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Michael A Taffe

    Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    Reviewing editor, eLife
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-9827-1738
  2. Nicholas W Gilpin

    Department of Physiology, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    Owns shares in Glauser Life Sciences, Inc., a company with interest in developing therapeutics for mental health disorders. There is no direct link between those interests and the work contained herein.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-8901-8917


No external funding was received for this work.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Peter Rodgers, eLife, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: December 14, 2020
  2. Accepted: January 17, 2021
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: January 18, 2021 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: January 27, 2021 (version 2)


© 2021, Taffe and Gilpin

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


  • 8,950
    Page views
  • 1,281
  • 1

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Crossref, PubMed Central, Scopus.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Download citations (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

  1. Further reading

Further reading

  1. Edited by Julia Deathridge

    Research culture needs to be improved for the benefit of science and scientists.