Feds Spend $723,637 Giving College Professors ‘Unconscious Bias’ Training

Study seeks to change the ‘culture of academic science’

July 1, 2016

The National Institutes of Health is spending over $700,000 to give college professors "unconscious bias" training.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison received the funding for the study that seeks to change the "culture of academic science."

"Although explicit prejudice has been declining steadily over the past 50 years, a large body of theoretically grounded experimentally confirmed research demonstrates that the mere existence of cultural stereotypes about racial and ethnic groups can invisibly and inadvertently impede opportunities for underrepresented minority students through ‘unconscious’ or ‘implicit’ bias," the grant for the project states. "Recently, a cluster randomized controlled trial was conducted and showed that approaching implicit bias as a remedial habit can reduce gender biased behaviors among faculty. Further, engaging in an activity in which one takes the perspective of someone different from him or herself is an effective way to introduce the sensitive topic of implicit race bias."

Resting on the belief that "everyone is a little bit racist or sexist," unconscious bias training has become popular with corporations like Google and the federal government. The intelligence community sent employees to training last year.

The National Institutes of Health also began its study of the training in 2015, entitled, "Breaking the Bias Cycle for Future Scientists: A Workshop to Learn, Experience, and Change."

The project theorizes that "unconscious bias" and stereotypes are to blame for fewer women and minorities choosing to study science in college.

"This proposal’s goal is to improve the culture of academic science and to make it more welcoming to diverse students by targeting the unconscious attitudes and behaviors of their research mentors directly," the grant said. "The education plan’s overarching objective is to train the mentors of students about the concepts of implicit or unconscious bias, the effects of these biases on underrepresented minority students in training, and the strategies to mitigate race-based bias within labs, departments, and institutions."

The five-year project will not be completed until February 2020,and has cost taxpayers $723,637 so far.

The study is developing a "Breaking the cycle of bias" curriculum to train roughly 454 college mentors and professors. Professors will also take an "Implicit Association Test" to detect race bias.

Results from the study will be used to create unconscious bias training materials for other universities.