Integrating sex and gender considerations in UK biomedical, health and care research

Sex and gender play fundamental roles in individual and population health. Sex and gender 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.

High-quality, reproducible and inclusive biomedical, health and care research requires consideration of sex and gender at every stage, from study design and recruitment to data analysis and transparent reporting of results. Unlike other high-income countries – notably Canada, the United States and European nations under Horizon Europe – the UK currently has no standard, unified guidance for researchers about how adequately to consider sex dimensions in cell and animal studies, and sex and gender dimensions in human studies.

The UK’s MESSAGE initiative has co-designed a sex and gender policy which will be available from 2024. Culture change in this space will ensure the UK cements its position as a world leader in rigorous, sustainable science and provides the most effective evidence to improve outcomes for patients and society, which The Dunhill Medical Trust strongly supports.

We are committed to providing our research community with the guidance, skills and tools to ensure that future research meets the needs of all people, no matter their sex or gender. At The Dunhill Medical Trust, we will:

  • Continue to ensure that sex and gender is considered in all aspects of research as part of our principles-based approach to assessing funding proposals and wider commitment to supporting EDI in research.
  • Continue to encourage and support the researchers we fund to engage with underrepresented groups in their research.
  • Encourage our award holders to collect and monitor the demographics of their research participants.
  • Where appropriate, continue to include highlight notices within our call guidelines for research into the effects of sex and gender alongside other relevant characteristics.
  • Explore options to provide training to researchers in our networks to assist them in integrating sex and gender considerations into their research.