Priestley on how universities like Princeton can foster inclusive research and innovation by reducing racial funding bias

Friday, Feb 25, 2022
by Jonathan Garaffa and Tracy Meyer

In the February issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society - Gold (JACS_Au), Rodney Priestley, Princeton's Vice Dean for Innovation and Pomeroy and Betty Perry Smith Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, writes about the impact of racial bias in research and suggests how universities like Princeton that have a healthy research ecosystem can help foster greater inclusivity.

Priestley links systemic racism and discrimination to challenges that researchers from historically underrepresented groups face in publishing, winning competitive federal funding and eventually obtaining tenure-track faculty positions. He notes that funding disparities can also lead to underfunding of research topics often pursued by these researchers. Priestley concludes that perhaps the “even more damaging outcome of the racial bias in funding is its impact on the forward progress of research and innovation” as talented researchers are shut out from exploring questions of importance to all humanity and establishing collaborations that drive new discoveries and lead to groundbreaking technologies.

The opening of collaborative research channels across institutions is a small step toward leveling the racial disparity in funding, but it is a concrete action that universities with healthy funding levels can take. 
- Rodney Priestley, JACS_Au


Addressing how universities like Princeton can help, Priestley discusses the Princeton Alliance for Collaborative Research and Innovation (PACRI) and how this new program will foster collaboration and a more inclusive research, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. In its pilot phase launching this spring,. In its pilot phase launching this spring, PACRI will fund collaborative research projects between Princeton faculty and researchers at a small group of HBCU institutional partners. The goal is to enable impactful investigations that may otherwise go unfunded due to structural barriers. Priestley notes that the program is starting with an HBCU focus but that he anticipates creating similar efforts with other minority-serving institutions and women’s colleges.

The Alliance will be led by Priestley and Tod Hamilton, associate professor of sociology and acting director of the Office of Population Research. It is part of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan of the Dean for Research.

Read Priestley’s editorial, "How Universities with Healthy Research Ecosystems Can Help Foster Greater Inclusivity.