This commentary accompanies a paper by Tamblyn and colleagues that presents evidence from a cross-sectional study that shows the presence of gender bias in the grant peer review process in Canadian health research funding. Notably, female applicants with past grant success rates equivalent to male applicants were given lower application scores by reviewers, and male applicants with less experience than female applicants were favoured and awarded grants at a higher rate.
Gender bias within the research grant review process worldwide is a manifestation of historical and systemic gender bias within academic institutions and beyond. For many reasons, women are underrepresented in academic leadership; their research is less frequently cited than that of men; and they may enjoy less credit for their published work than their male coauthors. Efforts to overhaul processes of research grant peer review must go hand in hand with larger projects that aim to shift traditional gender norms in academia through institutional policies that recognize gender bias and act to counter it.
By Rosemary Morgan, Kate Hawkins and Jamie Lundine