ABOUT THE PROJECT
Promoting responsible communication of scientific research on sex/gender and the brain
Our aim is to create a definitive reference guide for accurate, fair and balanced reporting on sex/gender difference research for all those involved in writing and reading about it, including journalists, journal editors, peer reviewers, as well as researchers themselves.
We will also translate the guidelines into an engaging and accessible ‘user guide’ for the wider public, so that all of us can more easily identify and challenge unwarranted and damaging claims about sex/gender and the brain.
Why this matters
The Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Childhood found that gender stereotypes significantly limit children's potential, contributing to lower take-up of STEM subjects among girls, self esteem and body image problems, higher male suicide rates and violence against women and girls.
Poor communication of research findings on sex/gender and the brain can serve to maintain or develop gender stereotypes, for example by overstating the case for average differences between women's and men's brains based on outdated or flawed research, or by misrepresenting the 'take-home message' of an observed statistical difference between groups.
While there are already a number of research papers that have made recommendations for how these problems can be avoided (see for example, How hype and hyperbole distort the neuroscience of sex differences) there has not yet been a single, accessible and widely-endorsed good practice guide for journal editors, science writers, and members of the public to refer to.
The guidelines are being developed by Professor Gina Rippon (Professor Emeritus of cognitive neuroimaging at the Aston Brain Centre) Katy Losse, (co-founder of the Noise in Neuroscience project, part-seconded from the National Audit Office), and Simon White (Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit and Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge; Royal Statistical Society Statistical Ambassador).
This project is focused on tackling problems that contribute to gender stereotyping. We expect that it could act as a model for future work to help tackle other stereotypes including those related to race and disability.
We know that discussions about sex/gender and the brain can affect transgender and non-binary people particularly strongly. We are committed to protecting and supporting transgender and non-binary people's dignity through the way we frame and develop our guidelines, and welcome contributions and advice about how best to do so.
We use the term ‘sex/gender’ to combine the terms 'sex' - used as referring to individual biological attributes including sex-related chromosomes, genitalia and hormones – and ‘gender’ - used as referring to social and cultural experiences associated with identifying as female, male or non-binary. This use recognises that publications in this area may use these terms separately, interchangeably or in combination, with or without definition.