The European Commission announced in late 2020 that research grant recipients would have to include gender and sex analyses in their studies. This could be done by disaggregating data according to sex in cell analysis or looking at how technology might perpetuate gender stereotypes. Nature, back then, stated that this was an important step and encouraged other funders (see Nature 588; 196; 2020). We also stated that publishers have a responsibility to encourage sex reporting. Funders are not the only ones responsible.
Many journals encourage reporting sex and gender analyses for many years. The number of studies including such data has increased significantly over the past decade. There are still gaps, especially when it comes to reporting data that is not broken down by gender or sex.
To remedy this, from now on, researchers who submit papers to a subset of Nature Portfolio journals (see list at go.nature.com/3mcu0zj) will be prompted to state whether and how sex and gender were considered in their study design, or to indicate that no sex and gender analyses were carried out, and clarify why. It is important that they indicate in the abstract and title if their findings only apply to one sex or one gender.
The participants will be required to give data that is gender- and sex-disaggregated, and they will be informed of their consent to share and report individual-level data. These changes will apply to studies that involve human participants, other vertebrates, or cell lines in which sex is a relevant consideration.
We also urge caution when communicating research findings on sex and gender. This is to avoid inadvertent or harmful effects of research findings, particularly where there is potential for societal or public-policy implications. More details about these changes can be found at go.nature.com/3mcu0zj. These changes are part of the SAGER guidelines (Sex and Gender Equity in Research).
A further four journals, Nature Communications, Nature Medicine, Nature Communications and Nature Metabolism, will raise awareness about the new recommendations starting in June. This is done to increase understanding of how gender and sex reporting are already part of research design, data collection, and analysis in journals that publish them. Journals will also assess the reception of changes by authors and reviewers so that we can improve upon them as we gain experience.
These new measures are necessary because most research fails to consider sex and gender in its design. Sometimes, this can lead to catastrophic results. Ten prescription drugs were stopped from being used in the United States between 1997 and 2001. Eight of them were found to have more side effects in women than they did in men. We recognize that not all people fit into this category. These differences were likely to have been overlooked due to insufficient or incorrect analysis of data regarding sex differences during clinical trials.
These changes are intended to increase transparency and accuracy in study design. We hope to see sex and gender analysis integrated into study design as a default.