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Preprint online: “Race” in German life science research

Preprint online: “Race” in German life science research

The use of human diversity classifications like race, ethnicity, ancestry, or migration background entails a range of scientific as well as social consequences, therefore, a careful application is vital. In this article, we present results from a systematic literature review and subsequent quantitative content analysis based on 546 papers focusing on classifications applied in life sciences studies at German research institutions. Our aim is to capture a snap-shot of current classification practices applied to categorize humans across various disciplines and fields in a specific national context that remains underexposed in this regard. The review substantiates a) the results from earlier studies that point to heterogeneity, inconsistency and vagueness of human classifications used in the life sciences, and b) underlines the presumed specificity of the German science context, where the term "race" is comparatively little used. Our findings stress the need for German researchers to partake in the ongoing international debate on the practice of human classification in the life sciences to advance the international and interdisciplinary transferability of scientific results and, first and foremost, to avoid unintended effects such as overgeneralization, racialization, and stigmatization.


Our study is available as preprint without peer review. A publication in a peer reviewed journal is planned.

The Nature of Race in Germany: A systematic literature review of human classifications in German life sciences

Isabelle Bartram, Laura Schnieder, Nils Ellebrecht, Florian Ruland, Tino Plümecke, Andrea zur Nieden