The Use of Race, Ethnicity and Ancestry in Human Genetic Research

- Hugo Journal
Author/s: -Ali-Khan, Sarah E -Krakowski, Tomasz -Tahir, Rabia -Daar, Abdallah S
Journal: Hugo Journal
Year: 2011

Post-Human Genome Project progress has enabled a new wave of population genetic research, and intensified controversy over the use of race/ethnicity in this work. At the same time, the development of methods for inferring genetic ancestry offers more empirical means of assigning group labels. Here, we provide a systematic analysis of the use of race/ethnicity and ancestry in current genetic research. We base our analysis on key published recommendations for the use and reporting of race/ethnicity which advise that researchers: explain why the terms/categories were used and how they were measured, carefully define them, and apply them consistently. We studied 170 population genetic research articles from high impact journals, published 2008–2009. A comparative perspective was obtained by aligning study metrics with similar research from articles published 2001–2004. Our analysis indicates a marked improvement in compliance with some of the recommendations/guidelines for the use of race/ethnicity over time, while showing that important shortfalls still remain: no article using ‘race’, ‘ethnicity’ or ‘ancestry’ defined or discussed the meaning of these concepts in context; a third of articles still do not provide a rationale for their use, with those using ‘ancestry’ being the least likely to do so. Further, no article discussed potential socio-ethical implications of the reported research. As such, there remains a clear imperative for highlighting the importance of consistent and comprehensive reporting on human populations to the genetics/genomics community globally, to generate explicit guidelines for the uses of ancestry and genetic ancestry, and importantly, to ensure that guidelines are followed.