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JDRF UK support s first-of-its-kind sex and gender policy for research

We support the introduction of dedicated sex and gender policies in UK research, which will encourage scientists to think about sex and/or gender in their research.
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Kate Gerrard 11 December 2023

Medical Science Sex and Gender Equity (MESSAGE) logo

Most research is done on male cells, animals and individuals, which has led to gaps in the scientific evidence about how health and disease affect other sexes and/or genders. The UK currently has no standard, unified guidance for researchers about how to adequately consider sex in cell and animal studies, and sex and gender in human studies.

We are joining with other UK medical research organisations to address these gaps and improve the accuracy of scientific research through The George Institute for Global Health’s Medical Science Sex and Gender Equity (MESSAGE) project.

What do we mean by sex and gender?

A person’s experience of health and disease can be conditioned by their biological attributes (their sex) and by their roles, behaviours and identity in society (their gender). Under the new sex and gender policy, research involving cells and animals will be concerned only with sex. Research involving humans may be concerned with the sex of its participants or with their gender, or both, depending on the research topic.

Why is sex and gender important?

Sex and gender play fundamental roles in individual and population health. They influence the medical conditions people develop, the symptoms they experience, the treatments and quality of care they receive, their disease progression and their overall outcomes. Studying and understanding sex and gender differences and similarities is essential for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of medicines and care, to improve the health of all people in the UK.

How do sex and gender affect research?

Research that doesn’t account for sex and gender produces results that are less accurate and reproducible and bring benefit to a smaller proportion of society. Sex and gender inclusive research leads to more targeted care and better outcomes for all people, particularly for cis women, trans, non-binary and intersex people and people with variations of sex characteristics.

JDRF’s sex and gender guidance

We currently provide our research community with guidance on ensuring their research proposals consider the needs of all people with type 1 diabetes, no matter their sex or gender or other characteristics. We are issuing a Statement of Intent for the MESSAGE initiative, committing to providing the research community with further guidance and tools to ensure type 1 diabetes research is fully representative of all the people who live with this condition.

Policy framework coming in 2024

The MESSAGE policy framework, training materials for researchers and funding organisations about how to integrate sex and gender in your work will be launched in 2024. They will include further resources including an annotated bibliography to help researchers understand sex and gender dimensions identified in previous research.

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