The researcher fighting to embed analysis of sex and gender into science

Londa Schiebinger

Recalled drugs, unsafe products and even environmental chaos are just some of the consequences of research that doesn’t consider sex and gender, says Londa Schiebinger. That’s why Schiebinger, who studies gender and science at Stanford University in California, is helping funders convince researchers to analyse the effect of these factors in their studies.

On 25 November, the European Commission — one of the world’s largest research funders — said that it aims to make sex and gender analysis mandatory in the research it funds through its €85-billion (US$100-billion) Horizon Europe programme, which is set to begin in 2021. Its policy would apply to all disciplines, except topics for which the commission decides such analyses wouldn’t be relevant, for example, pure mathematics. The commission will ask researchers to consider these factors at every stage of their work — from study design to data collection and analysis.

The move strengthens a policy the commission began to implement in 2013. By 2020, it asked research applicants in about one-third of fields to account for sex (biological characteristics commonly used to classify people as male, female or intersex) and gender (socially constructed roles, norms and identities, not necessarily binary or aligned with a person’s sex) in their research. It was one of the first funders outside of health research to do so. But fewer researchers than expected did the analyses.

The strengthened policy is a result of recommendations made in the commission’s second report on Gendered Innovations, published today and produced by a 25-person expert group that Schiebinger chaired. The report provides guidance for how researchers can incorporate sex and gender analysis across the gamut of research topics Horizon Europe will fund, from finance to agriculture.

Nature spoke to Schiebinger about the group’s work.