In Medical Research, Gender Differences Are Explored More Often When Women Are on the Research Team

A new study conducted by researchers at Stanford University in California and Aarhus University in Denmark, finds that when women participate in the publication of a medical research paper, the research is significantly more likely to deal with gender differences in the way people react to diseases and treatments.

The researchers examined 1.5 million medical research papers published between 2008 and 2015. They examined content to determine if the paper considered gender differences in the subject studied. They also compiled data on the gender of the papers’ authors based on their first names. They found that the more women among a paper’s authors, the more likely the research took into account gender and sex differences in the actual research. This was particularly true when women were among the group of lead authors.

Londa Schiebinger, the John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science at Stanford and a co-author of the paper notes that women and gender differences are often overlooked in medical research. “If you don’t include sex and gender, you get serious errors,” she said. These errors can be life-threatening: women often retain drugs in their bodies at higher concentrations than men, and they may react very differently to various dosages of antidepressants and antipsychotics.

The National Institutes of Health have called on medical researchers to emphasize gender and sex analysis as important components of any publicly funded medical research. The NIH also urge researchers to include women in their projects.

“Diversity and excellence in medical research are linked,” Dr. Schiebinger says.

Dr. Schiebinger is the author of several books including Has Feminism Changed Science? (Harvard University Press, 1999). She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska, where she majored in English. Professor Schiebinger holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University.

The full study, “One and a Half Million Medical Papers Reveal a Link Between Author Gender and Attention to Gender and Sex Analysis,” was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/StudyWomen's Studies

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