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Some scientists want race removed from genetics research

Scientists say moving past the biological concept of race will "improve the scientific study of human difference and commonality."
By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 4, 2016 at 5:35 PM

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- In a new paper published in the journal Science, four professors argue that genetic concepts of race are flawed, confusing and potentially harmful and have no place in biological research.

"We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research -- so disputed and so mired in confusion -- is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way," researchers wrote.

The four study authors say genetic or biological concepts of race don't stand up to scientific scrutiny. Scientists would be better off using terms like "ancestry" and "population" when considering genetic similarities and differences among groups of people.

Researchers call ancestry a "process-based" designation, linking an individual with his or her genealogical past.

"Race, on the other hand," researchers write, "is a pattern-based concept that has led scientists and laypersons alike to draw conclusions about hierarchical organization of humans, which connect an individual to a larger preconceived geographically circumscribed or socially constructed group."

The study's authors include: Dorothy Roberts, a sociologist and professor of African studies at the University of Pennsylvania; Sarah Tishkoff, a genetics professor at Penn; Michael Yudell a professor at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health; and Rob DeSalle, a genetics researcher at the American Museum of Natural History.

Their new paper also calls on the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to gather a panel of experts to discuss how best to move beyond biological concepts of race in order to "improve the scientific study of human difference and commonality."

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