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Researchers should stay away from terms like ‘race,’ ‘ancestry’ and ‘ethnicity’ interchangeably

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Health-care researchers should stay away from terms like “race,” “ancestry” and “ethnicity” interchangeably within their studies and research reports, says McMaster University professor Sonia Anand in her latest study in PLOS Global Public Health.

Anand said that is really a social rather than biological construct, and multiple ethnic groups exist within racial groupings. Furthermore, one’s ethnic identification and ancestry could be different.

The findings of Anand, first author Clara Lu and fellow researchers Rabeeyah Ahmed and Amel Lamri were published on Sept. 15.

“If they not used carefully, people often use race, ethnicity and ancestry as equivalent terms and according to the research, racial groups are interpreted to reflect biological differences,” said Anand, a professor of the Department of Medicine. She actually is also the acting associate vice-president of Equity and Inclusion at McMaster and the associate chair of equity and diversity on her behalf department.

“Also, people’s perceptions of these own ethnicity may differ as time passes.”

Anand said the very best technique for researchers would be to ask study participants to self-identify their race, ethnicity or ancestry.

She said that self-reporting reduces the chance of misclassifying people, that may skew data around health outcomes if researchers categorize participants predicated on pores and skin or other characteristics without consulting them.

For instance, in case a person from another race is classified as white, they may be mistakenly deemed to be of lower threat of developing health issues that could disproportionately affect some racial groups a lot more than others.

“Researchers should think about the terms they use more carefully,” said Anand.

“There exists a difference in the terms race and ethnicity and study participants ought to be asked to self-report both whenever you can.”

Anand said correctly utilizing the term “ancestry” is specially very important to genetic researchers, as study participants may identify with one ethnic or racial group but have genetic ancestry that is different.

She gave the exemplory case of some South Asian Canadians who may identify to be from India or Pakistan but may possibly also have genetic ancestry that clusters from the center East or Central Asia.

“Genetics and genomics researchers should think about carefully -informed ethnicity, alongside the self-reported ethnicity,” said Anand.

The paper comes 23 years after Anand authored an identical review on usage of race and terminology in health research. She said the 2022 update was necessary due to an internationally reckoning with and , both in healthcare and society all together, together with the explosion of population-based genetics studies.

More info: Clara Lu et al, Usage of race, ethnicity, and ancestry data in health research, PLOS Global Public Health (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgph.0001060

Citation: Researchers should stay away from terms like ‘race,’ ‘ancestry’ and ‘ethnicity’ interchangeably (2022, September 19) retrieved 19 September 2022 from

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