Applying the new SABV (sex as a biological variable) policy to research and clinical care

Physiol Behav. 2018 Apr 1:187:2-5. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.08.012. Epub 2017 Aug 17.


Sex as a biological variable (SABV) is a key part of the new National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative to enhance reproducibility through rigor and transparency. The SABV policy requires researchers to factor sex into the design, analysis, and reporting of vertebrate animal and human studies. The policy was implemented as it has become increasingly clear that male/female differences extend well beyond reproductive and hormonal issues. Implementation of the policy is also meant to address inattention to sex influences in biomedical research. Sex affects: cell physiology, metabolism, and many other biological functions; symptoms and manifestations of disease; and responses to treatment. For example, sex has profound influences in neuroscience, from circuitry to physiology to pain perception. Extending beyond the robust efforts of NIH to ensure that women are included in clinical trials, the SABV policy also includes rigorous preclinical experimental designs that inform clinical research. Additionally, the NIH has engaged journal editors and publishers to facilitate reproducibility by addressing rigor and promoting transparency through scientifically appropriate sex-specific study results reporting. The Sex And Gender Equity in Research (SAGER) guidelines were developed to assist researchers and journal editors in reporting sex and gender information in publications [1].

Keywords: Policy; Reproducibility; Rigor; SABV; Sex differences.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research / methods
  • Biomedical Research / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Services Research / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)*
  • Policy*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • United States