Follow the citations: Tracing pathways of “race as biology” assumptions in medical algorithms in eGFR and spirometry

Agustín Fuentes, Ulises J. Espinoza, Virginia Cobbs

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the concept of 'race' as a biological unit continues to persist in various scientific disciplines, notably in the field of medicine. This paper explores the persistence of 'race as biology' in medical research via examining select citational practices that have perpetuated this problematic concept. Citations serve as a cornerstone in scientific literature, signifying reliability and expert affirmation. By analyzing citation threads and historical patterns, we aim to shed light on the creation and perpetuation of false scientific truths and their impact on medical research, training, and practice. We focus on two prominent examples, eGFR and Spirometry, and trace key articles’ citational histories, highlighting the flawed evidence in support of racial corrections in medical assessments. The eGFR equation incorporates 'race' as a factor based on the erroneous belief that Black individuals have higher muscle mass than white individuals. Our analysis reveals that key cited sources for this belief lack robust and well-developed datasets. Similarly, Spirometry measurements incorporate racial correction factors, relying on questionable evidence dating back to the Civil War era. Citations serve as a cornerstone in scientific literature, signifying reliability and expert affirmation. They play a crucial role in shaping theoretical positions and validating data and assumed knowledge. Evaluating citation threads and key articles consistently referenced over time can reveal how falsehoods and erroneous assertions are constructed and maintained in scientific fields. This study underscores the need for critical examination of citational practices in medical research and urges a shift toward a more cautious approach when citing sources that support 'race as biology.' The paper calls for a reevaluation of pedagogical approaches and assigned readings in medical education to prioritize an anti-racist perspective in future research endeavors.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number116737
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    Volume346
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Apr 2024

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Health(social science)
    • History and Philosophy of Science

    Keywords

    • Biology
    • Citations
    • eGFR
    • Race
    • Spirometry

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