Race and Ethnicity in Medical Research: Requirements Meet Reality


  • Margaret A. Winker M.D.

    1. Deputy Editor of JAMA and Director of Scientific Online Resources for JAMA and the Archives Journals, published by the American Medical Association, as well as Vice-President of the World Association of Medical Editors, and a Director on the Board of the Council of Science Editors. Dr. Winker is an Internist with Fellowships in Geriatrics and Clinical Pharmacology.
    Search for more papers by this author


Race and ethnicity are commonly reported variables in biomedical research, but how they were determined is often not described and the rationale for analyzing them is often not provided. JAMA improved the reporting of these factors by implementing a policy and procedure. However, still lacking are careful consideration of what is actually being measured when race/ethnicity is described, consistent terminology, hypothesis-driven justification for analyzing race/ethnicity, and a consistent and generalizable measurement of socioeconomic status. Furthermore, some studies continue to use race/ethnicity as a proxy for genetics. Research into appropriate measures of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic factors, as well as education of researchers regarding issues of race/ethnicity, is necessary to clarify the meaning of race/ethnicity in the biomedical literature.