DGHI Impact Report — 2022-2023


My bright idea

To rethink how medical and scientific researchers use race and ethnicity in genetics.

Charmaine Royal

Robert O. Keohane Professor of African & African American Studies, Biology, Global Health, and Family Medicine & Community Health

What I'm doing about it

When scientists use race or ethnicity as a lens to describe the results of genetics research, they can do more harm than good, potentially perpetuating stereotypes and racial disparities in health outcomes. During the past year, Royal co-chaired a committee for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that offered new guidelines on the use of these imprecise and contested terms. The committee’s report advised researchers to avoid using race in most cases, urging instead the use of more scientifically accurate ways of describing populations. It’s just one way that Royal, who is internationally recognized for her work on the ethics and social implications of human genetics, is helping lead the scientific reevaluation of the role race plays – and doesn’t play — in research on genetic traits, variations and heritable diseases.