Group Categories in Pharmacogenetics Research

Philosophy of Science 72 (5):1232-1247 (2005)


Current controversy over whether the Office of Management and Budget system of racial and ethnic classification should be used in pharmacogenetics research as suggested by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration has been couched in terms of realist-social constructionist debates on race. The assumptions both parties to these debates share instead need to be relinquished—specifically, dichotomies between the social and scientific and what is descriptive and evaluative/normative. This paper defends a pragmatic approach to the question of the appropriateness of the OMB group categories in pharmacogenetics research, an approach that is local and context-specific rather than global, incorporates practical and ethical as well as theoretical dimensions, and recognizes intersections of the social and the biological in the constitution of group categories.

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Lisa Gannett
Saint Mary's University

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