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Thinking about sex and gender would help scientists improve their research, a new article published today argues.
Writing in a special 150th anniversary edition of Nature, five experts say these factors are too often ignored.
Sex - Attribute - Females - Males - Individuals
They say incorporating sex (the biological attribute distinguishing females, males or intersex/hermaphrodite individuals) and gender (psychological, social and cultural factors affecting how an individual identifies in society) could improve experiments, reduce bias and create opportunities for discovery and innovation.
The article highlights a host of examples in which including sex and gender has led to advanced understanding or insight—from male and female shellfish responding differently to climate change, to gendered social robots and to computer vision improvements prompted by evidence that facial recognition systems misclassify the sex of darker-skinned women more often than lighter-skinned men.
Sex - Gender - Science - Co-author - Dr
"It's striking to what degree sex and gender are overlooked in science," said co-author Dr. Robert Ellis, of the University of Exeter. "We need to include this at every level of research and in everything we do, or provide robust scientific justification as to why sex or gender are unimportant, based on experimental evidence.
"Things are certainly improving. For example, the original crash test dummies were based on a male physique, however a study found that as a result US female drivers were 47% more likely than males to suffer severe injuries in a comparable crash. Such insight undoubtedly helps engineers design more sophisticated test platforms that will ultimately prevent major injury or save lives.
Sex - Gender - Research - Misconceptions - Under-consideration
"Sex and gender are increasingly seen as important in research, but misconceptions and under-consideration still persist. We know, for example, that researchers' sex can affect how they interpret their observations, so this should be considered during the research process."
The paper focusses on four key areas—marine science, biomedicine, robotics and artificial intelligence—but the authors say the lessons apply across scientific disciplines. They...
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