Monday, August 22, 2011

Assault of Thoughts - 8/22/2011

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking" - JMK

- Donna Ginther and her colleagues have done an analysis of racial disparities in NIH grant awards and finds them to be surprisingly large. The Economist summarizes the research here. The disparity seems to show up early on in the process, at a point where reviewers don't have access to information on race, but do see names and affilitations (which the authors suggest could provide tip-offs). This may be the case, but I'd be curious to see a list of names and affiliations. Unfortunately, I'd suspect it's more entrenched than the review panels themselves (wouldn't it be nice if it could just be taken care of with some panel reform?). I'm guessing there are legitimate differences between grant proposals that are associated with educational disparities earlier in the science workforce pipeline. Do black students get to work on major grant proposals with their professors? Do they get channeled into the same research fields, etc.? Audit studies are impressive because they can usually zero-in on exactly where the discrimination is, but this one seems a little harder to me since they don't have the same control over the quality of the proposals themselves. Actually, a good next step would be to submit identical proposals with "black" and "white" names and affiliations. If the disparity still shows up, it's a racial cue problem. If it doesn't, it's a problem that goes much deeper into the educational and science workforce system.

- Megan McArdle has a good article on Austan Goolsbee in this month's Atlantic. It talks a lot about the mistakes most economists make when coming to Washington.

- Aparently, Robert Zubrin has released a new edition of his book The Case for Mars.

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