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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2017 May;26(5):560-570. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2016.6021. Epub 2017 Mar 10.

Are Female Applicants Disadvantaged in National Institutes of Health Peer Review? Combining Algorithmic Text Mining and Qualitative Methods to Detect Evaluative Differences in R01 Reviewers' Critiques.

Author information

1
1 Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison , Madison, Wisconsin.
2
2 Department of Computer Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison , Madison, Wisconsin.
3
3 Center for Women's Health Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison , Madison, Wisconsin.
4
4 Department of Statistics, University of Wisconsin-Madison , Madison, Wisconsin.
5
5 Health Innovation Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison , Madison, Wisconsin.
6
6 Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison , Madison, Wisconsin.
7
7 Departments of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Industrial and Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison , Madison, Wisconsin.
8
8 William S. Middleton Veterans Hospital , Madison, Wisconsin.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Women are less successful than men in renewing R01 grants from the National Institutes of Health. Continuing to probe text mining as a tool to identify gender bias in peer review, we used algorithmic text mining and qualitative analysis to examine a sample of critiques from men's and women's R01 renewal applications previously analyzed by counting and comparing word categories.

METHODS:

We analyzed 241 critiques from 79 Summary Statements for 51 R01 renewals awarded to 45 investigators (64% male, 89% white, 80% PhD) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison between 2010 and 2014. We used latent Dirichlet allocation to discover evaluative "topics" (i.e., words that co-occur with high probability). We then qualitatively examined the context in which evaluative words occurred for male and female investigators. We also examined sex differences in assigned scores controlling for investigator productivity.

RESULTS:

Text analysis results showed that male investigators were described as "leaders" and "pioneers" in their "fields," with "highly innovative" and "highly significant research." By comparison, female investigators were characterized as having "expertise" and working in "excellent" environments. Applications from men received significantly better priority, approach, and significance scores, which could not be accounted for by differences in productivity.

CONCLUSIONS:

Results confirm our previous analyses suggesting that gender stereotypes operate in R01 grant peer review. Reviewers may more easily view male than female investigators as scientific leaders with significant and innovative research, and score their applications more competitively. Such implicit bias may contribute to sex differences in award rates for R01 renewals.

KEYWORDS:

NIH funding; gender differences; women's career advancement

PMID:
28281870
PMCID:
PMC5446598
DOI:
10.1089/jwh.2016.6021
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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