Include explicit definitions of sex and gender as they relate to aspects of the research study in question and clearly outline the relevance to your research topic. Notice that IGAR is relevant in most research fields, and should always be considered when humans are involved directly or indirectly. That is, when humans are the object of research, IGAR is obviously relevant given the sex and gender differences in their bodies, behaviours, social constraints, etc. But even in cases where humans are not directly involved, for instance, in technological research, men and women (as potential users, customers, citizens, workers, etc.) can also be affected differently by the results of the study.
The exception are the few cases where the application of the results may not affect human beings (in)directly1. And of course, sex-based analysis is highly relevant in biomedical research on cells, tissues and animals – while certain animal studies have started to consider gender as playing a part in animal behavior (e.g. social interactions)2.
Ensure that the literature review cites prior studies that highlight significant similarities and/or differences between men and women (or female/male animals, tissues and cells) and apply these findings to the research design in question.
Research Questions and Hypothesis:
Include a systematic analysis and assessment of the state of knowledge about sex/gender and highlight how these findings could apply to your research topic.
Ensure that the research sample (participants, users, customers…) in question is appropriate, and where relevant includes proportional representation of men/boys and women/girls (or female/male animals, tissues and cells) to capture sex and gender-based factors, and other important factors intersecting with sex and gender (age, ethnicity, disability, religion, sexual orientation…).
Ensure that an ethical lens in terms of sex and gender3 is applied across the research cycle, from design to dissemination.
Dissemination/ Knowledge Translation:
Ensure that the research proposal design includes a robust dissemination strategy that facilitates effective use of the sex and gender findings or outcomes. Ensure appropriate dissemination and description of the differences in outcomes based on sex and/or gender. If there are no such data or no differential outcomes, this also should be specified. The role of researchers and Research Performing Organizations (RPOs) implies reporting to the research community about findings and innovations, but also informing and sensitising society, policy makers, the media and other institutions about this progress. By communicating on sex/gender differences or stereotypes found, researchers and RPOs can provide useful information and insights to estimate the impact of certain policies/measures and to stimulate the public debate questioning current norms and values in order to transform society into a more egalitarian one.
It must be noted that to appropriately follow the above considerations it is necessary that the research team is skilled in IGAR competencies. Otherwise, external gender expertise can be used in different stages of the research, for example, when writing the research proposal, gender experts can be called in to establish how gender is relevant and how it can be integrated into the research methodology or to organise gender training for the research team (either at the proposal stage or at the beginning of the project)4. Anyway, when gender is relevant in the research topic, basic gender knowledge is required for all team members so as to ensure that this analysis is not overlooked in any part of the research.
- 1. However, it should be noted that if IGAR is not relevant in certain research studies, that does not mean nothing should be done regarding contents. Even in this kind of research, the way results are disseminated or published might be gender-biased, e.g. with the pictures shown, with the examples or metaphors given, with the language used.
- 2. See for example: “Vocal negotiation over parental care? Partners adjust their time spent incubating based on their acoustic communication at the nest”, Ingrid C.A Boucaud, Mylene M. Mariette, Avelyne S. Villain and Clémentine Vignal. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Volume 117, Issue 2, pages 322–336, February 2016; Active males, reactive females: stereotypic sex roles in sexual conflict research? Karlsson Green, K. & Madjidian, J. A. Animal Behaviour, Volume 81, Issue 5, p. 901-907, May 2011.
- 3. E.g., ethical issues concerning the inclusion/exclusion of (pregnant) women in clinical trials. See for instance the Verina Wild (2012) paper on How are pregnant women vulnerable research participants?, and the one by Jyotsna Agnihotri Gupta (2011) on Ethical issues and challenges in bioethics education from a gender perspective.
- 4. Notice that some programmes (e.g., H2020) consider the costs for exploring how sex/gender analysis can be added to current or proposed research and for providing gender training for the research teams as eligible funding. However, at the level of writing up the proposal, it is important to make sure the project coordinator is trained, so that the person responsible to submit the proposal fully understands the implications of IGAR.