Barriers to racial/ethnic minority application and competition for NIH research funding

Vickie L. Shavers, Pebbles Fagan, Deirdre Lawrence, Worta McCaskill-Stevens, Paige McDonald, Doris Browne, Dan McLinden, Michaele Christian, Edward Trimble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Background: Despite recognition of the need to increase the pool of racial/ethnic minority investigators, racial/ethnic minority representation among National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded investigators remains low. Racial/ethnic minority investigators bring unique perspectives and experiences that enhance the potential for understanding factors that underlie racial/ethnic variation in health and health status. Identification of barriers to successful minority competition for NIH funding and suggestions for strategies to overcome them were obtained from a concept mapping project and a meeting of minority investigators and investigators at minority-serving institutions. Methods: Concept mapping, a mixed-methods planning approach that integrates common data collection processes with multivariate statistical analyses, was used in this exploratory project. The concept mapping approach generated a series of related "concept maps" that were used for data interpretation and meeting discussions. Results: Barriers to minority investigator competition for NIH funding identified by concept mapping participants include: 1) inadequate research infrastructure, training and development; 2) barriers to development as independent researchers; 3) inadequate mentoring; 4) insensitivity, misperceptions and miscommunication about the specific needs of investigators involved in research with minority communities; 5) institutional bias in NIH policies; 6) unfair competitive environment; 7) lack of institutional support; 8) lack of support for research topics/methods relevant to research with minority communities; and 9) social, cultural and environmental barriers. Discussion: Data from both the concept mapping and the meeting discussions suggest the need to use a multilevel approach to increase minority representation among funded NIH investigators. Specifically, the NIH should use strategies that overcome barriers at the home institution, within NIH and at the investigator level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1063-1077
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the National Medical Association
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethnicity
  • Minority underrepresentation
  • Race
  • Research funding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Barriers to racial/ethnic minority application and competition for NIH research funding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this