On the Minority Task Force Report

"The report on the "Status of Intramural Minority Scientists" concerning underrepresentation of minorities at NIH [July issue] points out what reports have been stating over the past 25 years. A problem persists despite substantial efforts by NIH to remedy it. This is not unique to NIH. Of all the reports I have reviewed, the one by H. W. Nickens, T. P. Ready, and R. G. Petersdorf in the Aug. 18, 1994 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine (pages 472 - 76) is the only one that addressed the true issue and offered some working solutions, not suggestions. I think we can agree that there is a problem. The problem is that members of society have always viewed change as a threat to their existence when they feel it is being imposed on them. History has shown that we have always viewed issues like this one as emotional, and one must never forget that change in attitudes come slowly. With this fact stated, my experience here as a minority has been a very positive one. This is not to say that there have not been some problems. My experience with the scientists here at NIH has been that they are concerned with ability to perform at the highest level, and not with race or sex issues. Because of space constraints, I cannot state all of the specific things we must do here at NIH. But one thing is for sure: we must not just address these issues with well-written intellectual reports, but we must deal with them as we do scientific issues and mandated problems. I've witnessed several complicated problems solved in less than the six years I've been here. My concern is the young minority (Black) scientists. The most important element in preparation for a research career is the opportunity to conduct research in an environment that is structured to do so. It must be under the supervision of skilled mentors unhampered by diversions (cultural differences, low pay, etc.) in a high-quality research setting. I would highly recommend that all those concerned with this issue review the article in The New England Journal of Medicine mentioned above. I believe it provides an excellent historical perspective on these issues as well as excellent recommendations on solving the problems." -- Joseph L. Bryant, NIDR

"As a minority scientist, I was told that children and relatives of NIH scientists are not encouraged to participate in the NIH Summer Internship Program since they have little chance of and low priority for acceptance. This is counterproductive, because these are the kids who will be most interested in following in the footsteps of their elders." -- M. Datiles, NEI

"Tenured IRP scientists in 1992: Blacks and Hispanics, 1.39%; Native Americans, 0%; others, 98.61%! As 'one cannot build a pyramid from the top,' support of minority education and opportunities for research are especially required if these dismal statistics are to be improved significantly. Scientists can make a difference by investing as little as a few hours a month to tutor, mentor, and train students." -- R. Mejia, NHLBI

Grants vs. Grant Applications

"In your very useful article in the July issue of The NIH Catalyst, you summarized Dr. Jerome Green's advice to those applying for a grant. You say that he recommends that they observe the rules of good writing. In the parlance of many aspirants for NIH funds, we note that they often fail to distinguish between the word grant (an appropriate or award) and the phrase application for a grant. Thus they speak of "grant writing" or "having grants rejected," etc., when, of course, they mean "writing an application for a grant" or "having their grant application rejected." However, both the headline of your lead article and much of your own text perpetuates their malapropism. I'm sure you would agree that those of us who are responsible for disseminating Dr. Green's advice should also follow it." -- Charles Kennedy, NIMH