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[Sex- and gender-sensitive research in epidemiology and medicine: how can this be achieved? Aims and first results of the network "Sex-/Gender-Sensitive Research in Epidemiology, Neurosciences and Genetics/Cancer Research"].

BACKGROUND: It is considered general knowledge among physicians and epidemiologists that biological and social aspects associated with being male or female have a strong influence on health and disease. Integrating these aspects into research is necessary to counteract the problems--including ethical problems--resulting from a different evidence basis for men and women. From January 2011 to June 2014 the Federal Ministry of Education and Research supported the network "Sex-/Gender-Sensitive Research in Epidemiology, Neuroscience and Genetics/Cancer Research" with three subprojects, which aimed to promote gender-sensitive research practices. The concepts and results are presented in this article.

METHODS: The subproject gathered data (literature analyses, questionnaires) and offered programs for young scientists. Experiences and results were collected and generalized, for instance, in the form of definitions of terms.

RESULTS: 50 young scientists have taken part in the training program, identifying associations and barriers in sex-/gender-sensitive research. Among others, a working definition for "sex-/gender-sensitive research" was developed, as well as definitions for the terms "sex-specific" (for biological characteristics that are specific to men or women) and "sex-/gender-dependent" or "sex-/gender-associated" (for biological and social factors, for which the extent of occurrence differs between the sexes).

PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT: The concepts realized by the network are well suited to stimulate further development and discussions. The definition of terms is an important base for a productive and high-yielding interdisciplinary collaboration.

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