Posted on April 17, 2023

Why Nature Is Updating Its Advice to Authors on Reporting Race or Ethnicity

Nature, April 11, 2023

It is regrettable but true that researchers have used and abused science to justify racist beliefs and practices. As previous editorials have acknowledgedNature has played its part in perpetuating racism — and has now pledged to play its part in tackling it, together with colleagues in the research community.

As part of this pledge, Nature and the Nature Portfolio journals are updating our advice to authors on reporting research that involves race, ethnicity and other socially constructed characteristics (see {snip}

There are many important reasons to study race or ethnicity. {snip}

But there are instances in which a focus on race or ethnicity as an explanation for an outcome can be inaccurate, and has the potential to be harmful. For example, studies of human behaviour sometimes attribute differences to race or ethnicity when they could involve other variables, such as socio-economic status or occupation. Inaccurate inferences that race is the decisive variable run the risk of entrenching stereotypical attitudes — to the detriment of the communities involved.

So, what are we asking authors to do, if their research describes people according to race, ethnicity or other socially constructed categories? Essentially, three things. First, specify the categories used and explain why such classification is needed. Second, explain the methods used to describe people in this way — for example, did study participants self-report, or did the information come from a census, social media or administrative data? Third, we would like authors to describe how they controlled for confounding variables, such as socio-economic status. {snip}


The research enterprise is on a path towards stopping discrimination and ensuring equity. {snip}