The Role of Community Review in Evaluating the Risks of Human Genetic Variation Research

Document Type



The practicality and moral value of community review of human genetic research has become a focus of debate. Examples from two Native American communities are used to address four aspects of that debate: (1) the value of community review in larger, geographically dispersed populations; (2) the identification of culturally specific risks; (3) the potential conflict between individual and group assessments of research-related risks; and (4) the confusion of social categories with biological categories. Our experiences working with these two communities suggest that: (1) successful community review may require the involvement of private social units (e.g., families); (2) culturally specific implications of genetic research may be identifiable only by community members and are of valid concern in their moral universes; (3) community concerns can be incorporated into existing review mechanisms without necessarily giving communities the power to veto research proposals; and (4) the conflation of social and biological categories presents recruitment problems for genetic studies. These conclusions argue for the use of community review to identify and minimize research-related risks posed by genetic studies. Community review also can assist in facilitating participant recruitment and retention, as well as in developing partnerships between researchers and communities.


Genetics; Human genetics; Human genetics—Research; Indians of North America; Risk assessment


Community-Based Research | Genetics | Genetics and Genomics | Indigenous Studies


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