Sex Bias in Neuroscience and Biomedical Research
Female mammals have long been neglected in biomedical research. The NIH mandated enrollment of women in human clinical trials in 1993, but no similar initiatives exist to foster research on female animals. We reviewed sex bias in research on mammals in 10 biological fields for 2009 and their historical precedents. Male bias was evident in 8 disciplines and most prominent in neuroscience, with single-sex studies of male animals outnumbering those of females 5.5 to 1. In the past half-century, male bias in non-human studies has increased while declining in human studies. Studies of both sexes frequently fail to analyze results by sex. Underrepresentation of females in animal models of disease is also commonplace, and our understanding of female biology is compromised by these deficiencies. The majority of articles in several journals are conducted on rats and mice to the exclusion of other useful animal models. The belief that non-human female mammals are intrinsically more variable than males and too troublesome for routine inclusion in research protocols is without foundation. We recommend that when only one sex is studied, this should be indicated in article titles, and that funding agencies favor proposals that investigate both sexes and analyze data by sex.