Ethnicity in Dutch health research: situating scientific practice

Alana Helberg-Proctor*, A.M. Meershoek, J.S.M. Krumeich, K. Horstman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: A growing body of work is examining the role health research itself plays in the construction of ethnicity.' We discuss the results of our investigation as to how the political, social, and institutional dynamics of the context in which health research takes place affect the manner in which knowledge about ethnicity and health is produced.Design: Qualitative content analysis of academic publications, interviews with biomedical and health researchers, and participant observation at various conferences and scientific events.Results: We identified four aspects related to the context in which Dutch research takes place that we have found relevant to biomedical and health-research practices. Firstly, the diversity' and inclusion' policies of the major funding institution; secondly, the official Dutch national ethnic registration system; a third factor was the size of the Netherlands and the problem of small sample sizes; and lastly, the need for researchers to use meaningful ethnic categories when publishing in English-language journals.Conclusions: Our analysis facilitates the understanding of how specific ethnicities are constructed in this field and provides fruitful insight into the socio-scientific co-production of ethnicity, and specifically into the manner in which common-sense ethnic categories and hierarchies are granted scientific validity through academic publication and, are subsequently, used in clinical guidelines and policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)480-497
Number of pages18
JournalEthnicity & Health
Issue number5
Early online date5 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Ethnicity
  • race
  • the Netherlands
  • categorization
  • scientific practice
  • methodological conventions
  • RACE
  • GENE


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