Commitment to Diversity
NIH is aware of the unusual gender distribution of this year’s Pioneer awardees. Of the awardees, approximately 8% (1 in 12) are female; whereas, of the applicants, approximately 21% were female. In all other years but the first year (2004), the percentage of female awardees has relatively closely reflected the percentage of female applicants. Discussions within NIH, including with senior leadership, examined why this unusual distribution might have occurred this year. Analysis of the review process indicated that there was no significant change from recent prior years in either the review process or the characteristics of the peer-reviewers. Examination of the other three Common Fund High-Risk High-Reward Research (HRHR) programs (the New Innovator Awards, Transformative Research Awards, and Early Independence Awards) revealed no such unusual gender distribution. NIH is strongly committed to encouraging diversity, and the HRHR program emphasizes to reviewers that exceptionally innovative research can come from applicants with a variety of backgrounds. NIH will continue to closely monitor the process and outcomes for the Pioneer Awards in future years to determine whether this year’s distribution is an outlier and will address any issues that emerge.