An article by Associate Professor of Informatics Cassidy Sugimoto and Associate Professor of Informatics and Computing YY Ahn at the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering has been selected to appear in a special issue of The Lancet celebrating women in science, medicine, and global health.
The article, Factors affecting sex-related reporting in medical research: a cross-disciplinary bibliometric analysis, was selected from more than 300 entries, and it shows that nearly three-quarters of biomedical research papers published between 1980-2016 did not report sex-based outcomes—differences in results for men and women—in health research. Female authors also were more likely to report on sex differences, showing that diversity in the workforce and research population is essential to produce effective and accurate research.
“It’s such an honor to be included in this special issue,” Sugimoto said. “Only three empirical articles were selected, and we went through several rounds of peer review. I am most proud of this paper because it demonstrates the power of informatics: we were able to apply our methodological expertise to another domain in order to discover patterns of behavior in science with massive implications for society. It allows us to make tangible policy recommendations on the basis of these findings. This is informatics at IU.”
The paper, which was written in collaboration with Vincent Larivière from the Université de Montréal, also found that research papers featuring a female first and last author were more likely to report sex, and journals with high impact factors were less likely to report on sex differences.
“Vincent and I have given several talks on women in science, and we’re always confronted with the same question: why does it matter if there are fewer women in science?” Sugimoto said. “He came up with the idea of looking at the field of medicine. We wanted to see if there were gender differences in how sex was incorporated into biomedical research. What we found was that women were more likely to include sex as an analytic variable and more likely to study female populations. Therefore, the presence of women in the scientific workforce changes how much we know about sex differences, generally, and females, specifically. Given that about half of the bodies in the population are female and that all bodies come from females, this has serious implications for all of humanity.”
The Lancet featuring the work of Sugimoto and Ahn will be released Feb. 8.
“Like Cassidy, I am excited to be a part of the Informatics research program that brings computing to the social problems,” Ahn said. “I am thrilled to make a meaningful contribution to the diversity problem in science. Personally, it has been an eye-opening experience to study gender and diversity because the research allowed me to see gender and diversity issues from the everyday life in the lab as well as the systematic, societal mechanisms behind it.”
The Lancet is a weekly, peer-reviewed journal that is nearly 200 years old, and it is considered one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world. The special issue focused on gender equality in science, medicine, and global health is designed to lead to substantial health, social, and economic gains.
“Diversity and gender equality are very important cornerstones of the mission of our school,” said Raj Acharya, dean of SICE. “It’s an important honor for Cassidy and YY to be selected to appear in The Lancet to talk about such an important topic, and it’s a sign of how informatics at SICE can make a real impact on people’s lives around the world.”