Law, policy, biology, and sex: Critical issues for researchers


Sudai, Maayan, Alexander Borsa, Kelsey Ichikawa, Heather Shattuck-Heidorn, Helen Zhao, and Sarah S. Richardson. “Law, policy, biology, and sex: Critical issues for researchers.” Science 376, no. 6595 (2022): 802-804. Copy at
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The interplay between legal and bioscientific understandings of sex is prolific and complex. Biological evidence and reasoning circulate in lawmaking and policy-making across an array of politically contested issues, including health care, education, and LGBTQI+ rights and protections. There is often a substantial disjoint, however, between how scientists define and operationalize sex differences in their research and how lawmakers and policy-makers make sense of these definitions and concepts as they strategically seek to bolster or challenge legal governance. Medical and life scientists who routinely incorporate sex-related variables in their research cannot eliminate superficial or malicious misuse of research by lawmakers and policy-makers, but awareness of the legal and policy landscape can clarify the possible downstream consequences of researchers’ choices about how to operationalize sex-related variables in their studies.

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