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Seeking reform, a neuroscientist argues against ‘sexist’ beliefs that keep research focused on male animals

A neurobiologist is arguing that outdated gender stereotypes, many of which are not evidence-based, are still finding their way into scientific experiments.

Starting in 2016, the National Institutes of Health mandated that researchers applying for grants factor sex as a variable into experiment design and data analyses. But one neurobiologist argues that outdated gender stereotypes, many of which are not evidence-based, are still finding their way into scientific experiments.

In a perspective published Thursday in Science, Northeastern University neurobiologist Rebecca Shansky said that one of the biggest misconceptions among her colleagues and many male and female scientists is that female hormones — and the estrous cycle in mice, which corresponds to the menstrual cycle in women — are “messy” and complicate matters for research.

“It seems that we are applying all of these higher standards for rigor to female animals that we haven’t had for male animals, and it’s all essentially based around this idea of ovarian hormones, and that to me just seems really wrong.”

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