|Posted on January 10, 2016 at 3:25 PM|
At the behest of three women in the U.S. house of representatives, Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX), Rosa DeLauro (D–CT), and Louise Slaughter (D–NY), the government's General Accounting Office (GAO) investigated whether women face bias in receiving federal funding for their research in science and engineering. In December 2015, the GAO reported their findings in report GAO 16-14. For grants awarded between 2009 and 2013, the GAO found no evidence of gender bias in the two agencies, NIH and NSF, who fund the largest amounts of basic research. Indeed, some years women received more funding than men. Both NIH and NSF have long collected such data and used it to scrupulously monitor their success in encouraging women applicants. There was also no gender bias in USDA funding.
Three other government funding agencies do not even track the gender of their applicants: DOD, DOE and NASA. This hampered the GAO's ability to study the awards made by DOD and DOE. In the components that they could analyze, the GAO found that there was evidence for lower funding success rates for women "within certain agency components." NASA's data collection "prevented GAO’s analysis of success rates altogether."
The GAO report concludes that all the agencies could do more to improve the representation of women researchers in federal funding. Their recommendations covered four areas: "(1) enhancing agency leadership and collaboration, (2) establishing family-friendly policies for grantees, (3) overseeing the research proposal review process, and (4) funding and assisting academic institutions."