Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 1353–1366 | Cite as

Reporting Race and Ethnicity in Genetics Research: Do Journal Recommendations or Resources Matter?

  • Pamela Sankar
  • Mildred K. Cho
  • Keri MonahanEmail author
  • Kamila Nowak
Original Paper


Appeals to scrutinize the use of race and ethnicity as variables in genetics research notwithstanding, these variables continue to be inadequately explained and inconsistently used in research publications. In previous research, we found that published genetic research fails to follow suggestions offered for addressing this problem, such as explaining the basis on which these labels are assigned to populations. This study, an analysis of genetic research articles using race or ethnicity terms, explores possible features of journals that are associated with improved reporting of race and ethnicity in genetic research. A journal’s expressed commitment to improving how race and ethnicity are used in genetic research, demonstrated by an editorial or in its instructions to authors, was the strongest predictor of following recommendations about reporting race and ethnicity. Journal impact factor had only a limited positive effect on attention to these issues, suggesting that editorial resources associated with higher impact factor journals are not sufficient to improve practices. Our findings reiterate that race and ethnicity variables are used inconsistently in genetic research, but also shed light on how journals might improve practices by highlighting the need for scientists to carefully scrutinize the use of these variables in their work.


Race Ethnicity Genetics research Terminology Compliance Journals 



This study was supported by a grant from the Public Health Service (R01-HG003191).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pamela Sankar
    • 1
  • Mildred K. Cho
    • 2
  • Keri Monahan
    • 3
    Email author
  • Kamila Nowak
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Medical Ethics and Health PolicyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Stanford Center for Biomedical EthicsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of Medical Ethics and Health PolicyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Jefferson Medical CollegePhiladelphiaUSA

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