A 10-year follow-up study of sex inclusion in the biological sciences

Elife. 2020 Jun 9:9:e56344. doi: 10.7554/eLife.56344.


In 2016, to address the historical overrepresentation of male subjects in biomedical research, the US National Institutes of Health implemented a policy requiring investigators to consider sex as a biological variable. In order to assess the impact of this policy, we conducted a bibliometric analysis across nine biological disciplines for papers published in 34 journals in 2019, and compared our results with those of a similar study carried out by Beery and Zucker in 2009. There was a significant increase in the proportion of studies that included both sexes across all nine disciplines, but in eight of the disciplines there was no change in the proportion studies that included data analyzed by sex. The majority of studies failed to provide rationale for single-sex studies or the lack of sex-based analyses, and those that did relied on misconceptions surrounding the hormonal variability of females. Together, these data demonstrate that while sex-inclusive research practices are more commonplace, there are still gaps in analyses and reporting of data by sex in many biological disciplines.

Keywords: human biology; medicine; meta-analysis; meta-research; none; sex bias; sex differences; sex inclusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bibliometrics
  • Biomedical Research / standards*
  • Biomedical Research / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Publications
  • Sex Distribution*