(CITY JOURNAL) -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are not taking the coronavirus epidemic seriously, to judge from their funding priorities. On April 20, those two agencies announced the availability of grants to increase the “diversity” of biomedical research labs. Academic virologists working on respiratory failure, say, could receive hundreds of thousands more taxpayer dollars if they could find a “diverse” student to add to the project. No scientific justification for the new diversity hire is needed; indeed, high school students are eligible, despite the virtual certainty that they will contribute nothing of value. To the contrary, such new hires will be a drag on any medical advance, since the scientists must pledge to mentor the students, taking time and attention away from their scientific research. Those mentees will be chosen not because of their science skills—they need present none—but because of their group’s underrepresentation in STEM.
The premier federal funders of biomedical research, in other words, apparently believe that a pandemic is the perfect moment to focus further on identity politics. If diversity trumps scientific merit in biomedical research, including in immunology and virology, then those research efforts cannot be particularly important, despite the experts’ economy-crushing shutdown mandates.