People are different, both physically and mentally, but genetically everyone is very similar. That's been the thought of scientists for decades now. But with population research becoming more and more common, the University of Alberta's Tim Caulfield is concerned that genetic research could awaken racist attitudes.
Just last year Nobel Prize winning geneticist James Watson claimed there are genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence. These comments made international headlines and Watson later apologized.
Caulfield knows that studying racial groups is important. For example, if a researcher is studying health disparities in the United States, they want to know why African Americans have poorer outcomes than those of European descent.
"In that case you're not saying that there's a biological difference because you're incorporating social and economic factors to that definition," said Caulfield. But it's cases where studies look to identify a gene in a population group where things can get complicated.
For those research projects, Caulfield brought together an interdisciplinary group to discuss the concerns of the scientific community and come up with ways to avoid it. This group included professionals in anthropology, bioethics, clinical medicine and law among a number of others.
"It was a very interesting group of individuals that haven't always agreed in the past," said Caulfield.
They managed to come together and agree on this topic, though, detailing a number of steps to ensure biomedical research doesn't stir up racism:
|Contact: Quinn Phillips|
University of Alberta