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Socially Sensitive Research

Creating an open environment where researchers and the general public can have candid discussions about the scientific and social issues associated with genetic research will go a long way to encourage broader participation from ethnic minorities, Aaron Buseh, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, writes in The Scientist.

He suggests that such an environment would be a place for researchers and minority groups to address the painful memories associated with such controversial topics as eugenics, cloning, scientific racism, and medical profiling with an eye towards allaying fears about potential deception and abuse in order to encourage members of minority groups to participate in genetic studies.

He says that building this so-called "genetics table" requires establishing advisory boards comprised of individuals from the target community who serve as mediators between the scientists and the larger community. He also advocates increasing genetics literacy through informal gatherings where researchers present summaries of their work to the general public.

Finally, "researchers need to be completely transparent about their motives and intentions for doing the study, fully explain benefits and risks to minority communities," he writes. They should also be willing to share the dividends derived from "new patents, genetics lines, or products from the fruits of their research" with participating subjects.

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