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eNeuro. 2017 Nov 9;4(6). pii: ENEURO.0278-17.2017. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0278-17.2017. eCollection 2017 Nov-Dec.

Problems and Progress regarding Sex Bias and Omission in Neuroscience Research.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
2
Graduate Program in Zoology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
3
W.M. Keck Center for Behavioral Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
4
Graduate Program in Physiology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
5
Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
6
Center for Human Health and the Environment, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
7
Comparative Medicine Institute, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.

Abstract

Neuroscience research has historically ignored female animals. This neglect comes in two general forms. The first is sex bias, defined as favoring one sex over another; in this case, male over female. The second is sex omission, which is the lack of reporting sex. The recognition of this phenomenon has generated fierce debate across the sciences. Here we test whether sex bias and omission are still present in the neuroscience literature, whether studies employing both males and females neglect sex as an experimental variable, and whether sex bias and omission differs between animal models and journals. To accomplish this, we analyzed the largest-ever number of neuroscience articles for sex bias and omission: 6636 articles using mice or rats in 6 journals published from 2010 to 2014. Sex omission is declining, as increasing numbers of articles report sex. Sex bias remains present, as increasing numbers of articles report the sole use of males. Articles using both males and females are also increasing, but few report assessing sex as an experimental variable. Sex bias and omission varies substantially by animal model and journal. These findings are essential for understanding the complex status of sex bias and omission in neuroscience research and may inform effective decisions regarding policy action.

KEYWORDS:

Animal models; journals; neuroscience; sex bias; sex omission

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