Research highlight

Medical research impacted by author gender

Nature Human Behaviour

November 7, 2017

Medical studies that include women investigators, especially in leading positions, are much more likely to address potential gender and sex differences in disease risk, prevention and treatment, reports a paper published online this week in Nature Human Behaviour. The findings highlight the importance of devoting more attention to the link between diversity and research outcomes.

Biological sex and gender differences play an important role in disease risk, prevention and treatment. However, gender and sex differences remain unaddressed in many areas of medical research. Understanding potential cultural determinants of these disparities is paramount.

Mathias Nielsen and colleagues demonstrate a robust, positive correlation between women’s authorship and a study’s likelihood of including gender- and sex-specific analysis. Using a sample of 1.5 million medical research papers, covering a diverse set of disease topics, countries and medical research areas, the authors compared the gender diversity of author groups and the share of first and last authorship for studies that did and did not involve gender- and sex-specific analysis. They found a strong link between women’s authorship and the inclusion of gender- and sex-related analysis, building on previous work documenting gender differences in the selection of the scientific fields and medical specialties to study and work in, respectively, across the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

The findings illustrate how promoting gender diversity can improve medical knowledge and health outcomes.

doi: 10.1038/s41562-017-0235-x

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