In this Kit:
The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) serves as the focal point for women’s health research at NIH. It is the first Public Health Service office dedicated specifically to promoting women’s health research within and beyond the NIH scientific community. ORWH also fosters the recruitment, retention, reentry, and advancement of women in biomedical careers.
Janine Austin Clayton, M.D., was appointed Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Director of the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health in 2012. Dr. Clayton is the architect of the NIH policy requiring scientists to consider sex as a biological variable across the research spectrum. This policy is part of NIH’s initiative to enhance reproducibility through rigor and transparency. As co-chair of the NIH Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers with NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Dr. Clayton also leads NIH’s efforts to advance women in science careers. You can learn more about Dr. Clayton from her Director’s Corner and Blog and by following her on Twitter.
Inclusion of Women in Clinical Research
Women and men are different on a cellular level. The inclusion of women in clinical research is necessary and important. Different pathways in men and women may lead to the same disease. Additionally, knowing how each sex responds to diagnosis and treatment is vital to improving the delivery of care. NIH Inclusion Policies and NIH Inclusion Toolkit: How to Engage, Recruit, and Retain Women in Clinical Research provide more information.
Sex as a Biological Variable
Until a few decades ago, researchers believed there were no significant differences between males and females other than their reproductive functions. Because of this belief, basic and preclinical research focused only on male animals and cells. To gain a clear understanding of female biology, NIH developed and implemented the NIH Policy on Sex as a Biological Variable (SABV), which states: “NIH expects that sex as a biological variable will be factored into research designs, analyses, and reporting in vertebrate animal and human studies.” Investigators seeking NIH funding for research should study both sexes or provide a strong justification for studying only one sex. You can read the NIH Policy on Sex as a Biological Variable and guidance on Consideration of Sex as a Biological Variable in NIH-funded Research for more information.
ORWH fosters, guides, and supports research on women’s health and the influences of sex and gender on health and disease to improve the health of women. ORWH partners with the NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICOs) and other Federal agencies to co-fund research in these areas:
- ORWH Co-Funded Research supports a variety of specific research efforts at NIH that have a major focus on women’s health research and the influences of sex and gender on health and disease.
- Administrative Supplements for Research on Sex/Gender Differences offers funding to ongoing peer-reviewed NIH grants on the condition that they will add the exploration of the effects of sex/gender to their preclinical and clinical studies.
- Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) is a mentored career development program that connects junior faculty, known as BIRCWH Scholars, with senior faculty who have shared research interests in women's health and sex differences.
- Research on the Health of Women of Understudied, Underrepresented, and Underreported (U3) Populations provides administrative supplemental funding for research that examines health disparities among women resulting from factors such as race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, and urban–rural living.
- Specialized Centers of Research Excellence (SCORE) on Sex Differences is a program that supports established scientists conducting research at centers across the country. It integrates basic, clinical, and translational approaches to incorporating a focus on sex and gender.
Learn more about our funded research and programs.
ORWH publications provide a wealth of information about the mission that drives our work and our strategy to improve the health of all through better scientific research.
- Advancing Science for the Health of Women: The Trans-NIH Strategic Plan for Women’s Health Research
- Biennial Report
- Women’s Health in Focus at NIH
- See additional publications on ORWH’s Resources page.