Report on the Use of Race, Ethnicity, and Ancestry as Population Descriptors in Genomics Research

March 14, 2023

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) have released a groundbreaking report titled "Using Population Descriptors in Genetics and Genomics Research: A New Framework for an Evolving Field." This report, developed by The Committee on Use of Race, Ethnicity, and Ancestry as Population Descriptors in Genomics Research, is a pivotal step towards addressing the complex relationship between race, ethnicity, ancestry, and genetics. Key contributors to this report include Sandra Soo-Jin Lee, Chief of the Columbia Division of Ethics, Katrina Armstrong, Dean of the CUIMC Faculties of Health Sciences and the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Molly Przerworksi, Professor of the Columbia Department of Biological Sciences.



The report emphasizes that researchers should:

  • Refrain from using race as a substitute for human genetic variation. Specifically, they should avoid assigning genetic ancestry labels to individuals based on their race, irrespective of whether the label is self-identified.
  • Ensure consistent application of labels for all participants. If ethnicity is the most suitable descriptor, every participant should be assigned an ethnicity label, rather than using race for some and ethnicity for others.
  • Remain mindful of the implications and connotations of the terminology used to label groups. For instance, the term "Caucasian" should never be used, as it was historically created to convey a notion of white supremacy.
  • Transparently disclose the methodology for selecting and assigning group labels. If researchers create new labels for existing samples, they should provide a detailed explanation of the differences between the new and previous labels.