Observations on Equity in Drug Abuse Science

June 21, 2007

As mentioned, it is a meeting week in Drugmonkeyland. Naturally all the gender-equity buzz in blogoland had me thinking about issues of diversity in my field. I’m sure the actual hard numbers in drug abuse science match the usual dismal unrepresentativeness. But I’d like to address this from a perception issue, namely my perception of the diversity of PIs. Some anectodal observations after the jump:

We do pretty well at the senior and mid-late career level with respect to women PIs. Many of the big figures in this area are indeed women and this extends from the human studies to animal research. And of course our funding Institute is directed by a woman.

Mid-late career women are also well represented, seemingly, at the levers of power. Namely on the CPDD Board, the scientific program committee, etc.

There seem to be plenty of scientific trainees that are women but of course that matches the general biomedical stats.

One seeming exception was in the young PI category. This could be perception but it seemed as though the assistant professor category, about 35-45 years of age and in their first grant cycle was disproportionately men. I wonder if drug abuse science is facing a big gender transition, which seems unlikely, or if this is a case of women in this age range being disproportionately more likely to stay home due to child care issues. One hopes that the participation of the next two older slices of women in the field means that the circa-child-rearing-years issues do not permanently hold back women in this field.

With respect to minority representation we seem to do okay, at least going by African-American investigators, the only “class” I’ll hazard based on observation. Better apparent representation than I usually see in college-prof and/or biomedical scientist statistics, for example. Perhaps this is because drug abuse issues hit African-American inner city populations hard, thereby motivating disproportionate numbers of African-Americans interested in biosciences to gravitate toward drug abuse research? Penetration of African-Americans into the ranks of power, such as it is, in the CPDD is minimal however. Possible bright spot that there were a couple-or-four young independent investigators that seemed to be well connected with an obvious “presence” within the meeting.

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