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Integrating sex and gender in biomedical, health and care research

The Academy, along with 29 other research funders, has today published a statement of intent in support of the MESSAGE (Medical Science Sex and Gender Equity) project.

The project team, based at The George Institute for Global Health, Imperial College London, are working with stakeholders across the UK research sector to co-develop best practice recommendations and a sex and gender policy framework for funders and regulators to improve gendered health outcomes in the UK.

Part of developing the framework includes accounting for sex and gender dimensions in study design, the importance of which was highlighted in the Academy’s responses to the Women’s and Equalities Select Committee Call for Evidence on Women’s Reproductive Health in September 2023, the DHSC’s Women’s Health Strategy Call for Evidence in June 2021 and Reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research in 2015.

The following statement of intent was signed off by the Academy Council on 4 December 2023.

 

Integrating sex and gender considerations in UK biomedical, health and care research

Studying and understanding sex and gender differences and similarities is essential for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of medicines and care, to improve the health of all people in the UK.

High-quality, reproducible and inclusive biomedical, health and care research requires consideration of sex and gender at every stage, from study design and recruitment to data analysis and transparent reporting of results. Unlike other high-income countries – notably Canada, the United States and European nations under Horizon Europe – the UK currently has no standard, unified guidance for researchers about how adequately to consider sex dimensions in cell and animal studies, and sex and gender dimensions in human studies. The UK’s MESSAGE initiative is co-designing a sex and gender policy which will be available from 2024.

The Academy of Medical Sciences is committed to providing our research community with the guidance, skills and tools to ensure that future research meets the needs of all people, no matter their sex or gender. The Academy awaits the publication of the MESSAGE framework with interest and aims to work with MESSAGE and partners to support culture change in this space.

In the approach to and following publication of the MESSAGE policy framework we will:

  • Explore measures needed to adopt a sex and gender policy framework within the research we fund and the broader work of the Academy.
  • Build on and standardise measures already in place in our grant making programmes to ensure that researchers account for sex and gender in their study design.

 

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