NIH Grant Expansion, Ancestral Diversity and Scientific Discovery in Genomics Research
In the approaching era of genomic medicine, the underrepresentation of minority populations in human genetics and genomics research has raised growing concerns regarding the distributive justice in the translation of biomedical innovations into human health across populations. Quantitative assessment of public funding policy in addressing the missing diversity is imperative yet lacking. In this paper, we fill this gap by empirically answering two central questions in the context of Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS): whether improved funding opportunity facilitates minority health research, and how significant is the scientific value of funding science on underrepresented populations. Our identification draws on an exogenous NIH grant expansion under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009, and exploits variations in the share of people with medical conditions among minorities relative to whites. Our main findings are threefold. First, the ARRA-NIH grant expansion contributes to an increase in the inclusion of minority ancestries in GWAS. It also facilitates the engagement of minority scientists in academic activities and promotes their role in scientific collaborations. The grant expansion fosters the discoveries of disease-associated genetic variants within minority populations. This quantitative evidence speaks to the role that public funding policy can play in advancing science.
We thank Feng Liu, Seth Richards-Shubik, Muzhe Yang and Fanny Leung for their valuable comments. All errors are our own. This study was supported by National Institute on Aging (U24AG041689, U54AG052427). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.