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Nearly three-quarters of genome-wide association studies have relied on participants from three countries, underscoring the low diversity among such studies, a new analysis has found.

Oxford University's Melina Mills and Charles Rahal conducted a scientometric review of GWAS from between March 2005 and October 2018 to assess participant recruitment and characteristics, study funders, author makeup, and other metrics. As they report in Communications Biology this week, Mills and Rahal found that participants of European ancestry have dominated GWAS — people of European ancestry make up 86 percent of discovery cohorts and 77 percent of replication cohorts. Most of these participants are recruited from three countries: the US, the UK, and Iceland.

This led Mills and Rahal to recommend funders, researchers, and others to prioritize ancestral, geographical, environmental, and other types of diversity in data. "The lack of ancestral diversity in genomic research has been an on-going concern," Mills says in a statement. She adds that "without increasing the diversity of people studied and environments they live in, the usage and returns of this research are limited."

The duo also reports that most GWAS studies are funded by US and UK agencies and have a dearth of female senior authors.