Discussion: Gender Bias in Research
Historically, men have dominated scientific research. Accordingly, the way research has been designed, the way studies have been conducted, and the ways in which results have been interpreted have been at risk for gender bias. In other words, the preconceived ideas and beliefs or unfounded prejudice about the traits and characteristics of each gender potentially influence the outcomes of research studies. Even today, as women have entered into the academic and scientific worlds in significant numbers, research is subject to gender bias. Bias can be present at any stage of the research process and may be difficult to completely eliminate since researchers may not be aware of subtle biases they hold.
The implications of gender bias can be far reaching. As the scientific community uses research study results for subsequent research and the media reports these findings to the public, gender bias can have a huge impact. Society may be making decisions that are based on incorrect, misleading, or biased data. As an example, a majority of early heart disease research was conducted primarily using male subjects leading to the assumption that heart disease was a man’s disease and did not significantly impact women. The gender bias in heart disease research resulted in little attention being paid to women who had heart disease symptoms as well as delays and limitations in the treatment for these symptoms for many years. In reality, it is now common knowledge that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women as it is for men.
This Discussion asks you to think about how gender bias can impact scientific research and how these biases or issues can be addressed.