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Women researchers fight odds to highlight sex differences

Friday February 8th, 2019

Only a minority of biomedical studies provide an analysis by sex – and often this is only because there are women researchers involved, researchers report today.

Women researchers continue to struggle against in-built biases – but contribute to the "most rigorous and effective" research, according to a series of studies published by The Lancet today.

The analysis, of more than 11 million pieces of research over 36 years, distinguishes between clinical medical research and biomedical research.

This showed that the including of sex-related reporting increased from 59% to 67% of clinical medical papers – and from 28% to 31% of biomedical papers. The most dramatic increase was in public health where in 1980 it was used in 36% of papers but by 2016 was applied to 69% of papers.

The most prestigious journals were least likely to report sex differences while papers with women named as first or last authors were most likely to look at these differences.

Researcher Dr Vincent Larivière, of the Université de Montréal, Canada, said: "Exclusion of sex reporting in research can hamper policy making, service provision, and health and development outcomes, and must be taken into account throughout the lifecycle of research.

"Furthermore, by identifying a link between authorship and sex-reporting, our findings show that gender disparities in science have consequences for the health of the entire population."

* A second analysis of grant awards in Canada found "clear bias" against women, the journal reports. Researchers studied 24,000 applications.

* A third analysis suggests women face a "glass ceiling" in leading universities in the US, the UK and Canada.

Researchers found that women held 56% of junior academic posts and 34% of senior posts. The study included the universities of Oxford and Cambridge together with University College, London, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Lancet 8 February 2019

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)32995-7/fulltext

Tags: General Health | North America | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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