Recent articles in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology and the Journal of Women’s Health by Judith Regensteiner, Ph.D., ORWH Director Janine A. Clayton, M.D., members of the ORWH staff, and others discuss the importance of developing curricula and other educational resources to help train researchers, medical and scientific educators, clinicians, funding and ethics reviewers, and scientific editors on the methods and scientific value of incorporating sex and gender into biomedicine. Both articles explain how major funding institutions have established policies and guidelines for addressing sex and gender in experimental design, analysis, and reporting. These include the NIH Policy on Sex as a Biological Variable (SABV) and the Sex and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA) in Research Action Plan of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Though the biomedical research community has developed some momentum toward a more systematic consideration of sex and gender as experimental variables, both articles point out that progress and policy implementation have been inconsistent.
The authors argue that evidence-based standardized curricula and training resources could constitute a big step toward helping journal editors, reviewers, clinicians, and researchers better integrate sex and gender considerations into their work. In the Lancet article, Dr. Regensteiner, Dr. Clayton, and colleagues state, “Ideal sex-based and gender-based research curricula should be developed collaboratively by scientific and education experts; this collaboration should lead to international standards amenable to universal adoption, with an ongoing collaborative process and a sustainability plan for new content development, updates, and peer review. Curricula should be universally accessible, evidence-based, searchable, and available on demand.”
ORWH, its partners, CIHR, and others have begun the process of developing such evidence-based curricula. The ORWH website offers online training resources to the public at no charge. Modules on immunology, cardiovascular disease, and pulmonary disease are currently available under the course heading Bench to Bedside: Integrating Sex and Gender to Improve Human Health. Three more modules in this series—on neurology, endocrinology, and mental health—will be available soon. The Bench to Bedside course, developed in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health (OWH), gives users a thorough and up-to-date understanding of sex and gender influences on health and disease so users can apply this knowledge when conducting research and interpreting evidence for clinical practice. Two more courses, Sex as a Biological Variable: A Primer and Introduction to the Scientific Basis of Sex- and Gender-Related Differences, are in development. CIHR has developed its own series of online courses, with modules covering integrating sex and gender in health research, data collection with human participants, and analysis of secondary data from human participants.