Why Men Got Picked Over Women in a Blind Review of Science Grants

A new study finds men use broad language in grant proposals that leads them to win more science funding. (Images credit: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Bureau of Economic Research)

A recent study of a science grant application process at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found male applicants received higher scores than women, even in a blind review. At the foundation’s request, a team from the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research analyzed this imbalance and reported that factors like scientific discipline and position, publication record, and grant history were not factors — the main difference was in the language used in proposal titles and descriptions. According to their working paper, men were found to use more words described as “broad,” while women chose more words labelled “narrow.” The broader word choices were preferred, especially by male reviewers. But, as in most research relating to complex issues of sex, bias and language, the story is more nuanced.

Read More