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Confronting bias, NIH sets out to attract more minorities into research field

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NIH Director Francis S. Collins

Disturbed by evidence of an underlying bias against minorities in drug research circles, the NIH has decided to roll out a new program aimed at encouraging more blacks and other underrepresented ethnic groups to get into the field.

Budgeting about $50 million a year, the NIH will lay out new research opportunities for undergrads, financial support for graduate and undergraduates along with a mentoring program aimed at helping students launch a career, reports the New York Times. The NIH plans to help about 600 students with the new program as they set out to lure more minorities into science. And NIH officials made it clear that they weren't interested in simply assuring a color-blind approach to the issue.

"It needed to go well beyond that," NIH director Francis S. Collins told the Times, "because even if we fixed that, it would still be the case that there would be a very distressingly low number of individuals from underrepresented groups who are part of what we're trying to do in science."

The NIH decided to take action after a study concluded last year that equally qualified minority scientists had a harder time gaining research support when compared to white scientists. Part of the NIH's response includes a pilot program that erases any identifying information about applicants in an attempt to determine if unconscious racism has excluded blacks and other minorities.

- here's the story from the New York Times

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