Women's Share of NIH Grants Drops With Age

A new analysis from the National Institutes of Health puts in stark relief the widening imbalance between men and women researchers as their careers progress. NIH grants’ staff members examined women's share of training grants and research awards arranged by career stage* (see graph after jump). Women are quite visible early in the federal funding pipeline, holding about half of all training grants. But they receive only 27% of R01s, NIH's basic independent research grants that funds researchers throughout their careers. And women are awarded only 18% of all P30s, which are large center grants won by scientists with an average age of 60.

These numbers come with caveats. For one thing, they are a snapshot of gender distribution in a single year, 2008, and say nothing about the progression of any particular cohort. They also don’t show the relative supply of women at various points along the career continuum. But the results are consistent with other data showing women are more likely than men to drop off the career ladder, notes NIH extramural research chief Sally Rockey on her blog.

The data come from a paper appearing in the June issue of Academic Medicine that also explores application success rates for men and women. For the most part, they are the same. But experienced male scientists submit more R01 applications and they are more successful at renewing these grants than women. NIH is investigating the reasons.

* Here is a guide to NIH's activity codes. In general, “F” designates a fellowship; “T” designates training grants; “K” designates a career development award; “R” designates independent research awards; “P” designates large projects and centers; and “U” designates a cooperative agreement.