AUSTIN, Texas -- Data from the National Science Foundation shows out of all of the doctoral degrees awarded every year, African-Americans only make up 6.5 percent of the recipients.

  • Education advocates encourage minority college students to get involved in research
  • Goal is to have more people of color studying their own communities

“My theory is that a diverse set of researchers can provide background information or other information that others may not provide,” Measure Austin Vice President, Eric Byrd said.

Education advocates say researchers and educators from diverse backgrounds may have an advantage when working with minority groups. White-only researchers, they say, may not understand all the context when they survey or study communities of color.

“Which often means the intervention you design, and the drug you design, what you come to understand, reflects only that community. This is how you develop interventions that don’t work,” says Professor Amanda Masino of Huston-Tillotson University.

Masino says work that comes from a less-than diverse team of researchers, may end up doing more harm than good.

“How you might end up with medications that don’t work, say, for Asian American ancestry because they metabolize the drug differently,” Masino said.

Which is why advocates are hoping to recruit more minority students into research.

“I think that there’s always an interest in becoming a part of the solution. I just think a lot of students may not know what pathways to take, or which connections to make and who to talk to to learn how to get there,” Byrd said. 

For Masino, the bottom line is to have better representation at the start.

“Why solve the problem in the end? Include people in the research in the very beginning so that doesn’t happen later down the road,” he said.