Funding Race as Biology: The Relevance of "Race" in Medical Research

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Banks, Taunya L.
race; ethnicity; biomedical research; federal regulations; Law
article description
Most scientists agree that race and ethnicity (ethno-race) classifications are the result of social and political conditions, as opposed to biological differences. But there is disagreement about the scientific validity of these categories. A number of scientists use ethno-race as a surrogate for various socioeconomic and environmental factors. Using race as a biological category can reflect and reinforce racial stratification as well as racist notions of inherent human difference. Questions surrounding the appropriateness of ethno-race classifications in medical research have been heightened by two decades of federal legislation that contains initiatives on minority health.This article proceeds from the assumption that conventional legal challenges to the inappropriate use of ethno-race in federally funded biomedical research are fraught with problems. Further, it argues that the current regulatory approach used by high impact medical journals and the federal government to discourage misuse of ethno-race comes too late. A more effective approach is stringent review and clearer standards about the use of ethno-face in biomedical research at the grant proposal stage.