Invitational Roundtable: Fostering Gender and Sex Integration into Health Research

Hosted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Gender and Health and the European Association of Science Editors

November 12, 2013
Washington, DC

Overview

The CIHR Institute of Gender and Health (IGH) and the European Association of Science Editors (EASE) cohosted an interactive international forum where participants exchanged information and shared best practices on fostering the integration of gender and sex across the spectrum of health research.

Objectives

The forum had three objectives:

  • To exchange information on current policies, approaches and practices that foster the integration of sex and gender across the health research spectrum
  • To share best practices for integrating sex and gender into the research pipeline (research grant application development, peer review, publication, journal editing, and science communication)
  • To facilitate networking and explore opportunities for collaborations

Key themes and recommendations for action

Several key themes emerged during discussions at the forum:

Integrating gender and sex in how we do science

  • In discussions on the gendered dimensions of science and research, participants observed that the issue of who does science (i.e. women’s participation in research and in science, technology, engineering, and math fields) is often conflated with the issue of how science is done (i.e. the integration of gender and sex throughout the research process). Both topics are important to innovation and diversity in the research enterprise, and while they are related, it is of strategic value to conceptualize and address them separately.
  • In keeping with this, the focus of the discussion was on gender and sex in how we do science – specifically, the integration of gender and sex into the health research pipeline.
  • Action is required on numerous fronts from a diversity of stakeholders, including research funders, policy-makers, researchers, clinicians, industry, the editors and publishers of academic journals, peer reviewers, and others.
  • Several participants emphasized the opportunities inherent in early and ongoing engagement with industry – for example, in facilitating access to proprietary data that may show important sexed and gendered findings.

Raising awareness through collaboration

  • Collaboration is key – including across fields and disciplines, between agencies and among countries. Europe is showing leadership in supporting international collaborations on gender and sex. Examples include Gendered Innovations, GENDER-NET European Research Area Network (ERA-NET) and GenderSTE COST initiatives.
  • There is a need to raise awareness that gender and sex affect the health of all people, and that these are topics of significance not only to the health of women and girls, but also men and boys. We must move beyond the assumption that gender is only relevant to women.

Methodological innovation

  • In domains where the integration of gender and sex is nascent or infrequent, we must enable shifts in research practice – for example, encouraging the stratification of data by sex or gender. In other domains, it is imperative that we move beyond stratification to examine the complexities of gender, sex, and health more deeply and with greater sophistication.
  • Participants agreed that gender, sex and health research will benefit from several forms of methodological innovation:
    • More widespread use of research methods that have been shown to be of value in generating meaningful data on gender and sex
    • Creative exploration and uptake of methods across fields and disciplines – for example, in situations where an existing method from one field might be of use to gender and sex researchers in another field, or where an existing method can be newly applied to research on gender and sex

Research policy

  • Research policy can be a key driver of integration – for example, CIHR’s requirement that all funding applicants respond to mandatory questions on gender and sex. Policies must be designed in a way that enables action and fosters accountability. Where possible, peer review criteria should make specific reference to the meaningful and appropriate integration of sex and gender.
  • Scholarly journals should require prospective authors to consider gender and sex in their manuscripts. The EASE Gender Policy Committee is developing a common standard that can be used by scientific and medical journals to organize their policies on sex and gender and address related gaps in science communication, both with respect to reporting of sex and gender differences when relevant, as well as the skewed participation of men and women in scientific publishing.
  • Participants agreed that, while challenges remain, this is a time of considerable opportunity and momentum for the integration of sex and gender, and for innovation in research and policy.

Capacity development

  • Capacity development is a priority. There is a need for training in the integration of sex and gender.

Participants

Janine Austin Clayton, Director, Office of Research on Women’s Health, National Institutes of Health

Hans Borchgrevink, Special Advisor, CEOs International Staff, Research Council of Norway

Gina Brown, Coordinator, Microbicides and Women and Girls Research, Office of AIDS Research, National Institutes of Health

Simone Buitendijk, Vice-rector, University of Leiden and Professor and Chair of Women’s and Family Health, Leiden University Medical Center

Renee Carter, Coordinator Health of Women Program, US Food and Drug Administration

Geert J. De Vries, President, Organization for the Study of Sex Differences and Professor, Neuroscience Institute, Georgia State University

Gillian Einstein, Associate Professor, Psychology and Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto and Chair, Institute Advisory Board, CIHR Institute of Gender and Health

Abigail Forson, Assistant Director, CIHR Institute of Gender and Health

Florence Haseltine, Board member, American Women in Science and the Older Women's League; Founder, Society for Women's Health Research

Shirin Heidari, Chair, EASE Gender Policy Committee

Joy Johnson, Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Gender and Health

Saralyn Mark, Senior Medical Advisor,  Women's Health Program, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Donna Mergler, Professor Emerita, Interdisciplinary Research Centre on Biology, Health, Society and Environment, Université du Québec à Montréal

Kathryn O’Callaghan, US Food and Drug Administration, Health of Women Program

Anne Pépin, Director, Mission for the Place of Women, National Center for Scientific Research, France

Susan Phillips, Professor, School of Medicine, Queen’s University

Londa Schiebinger, John L. Hinds Professor of History of Science, Stanford University and Director, Gendered Innovations Project

Zena Sharman, Assistant Director, CIHR Institute of Gender and Health

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