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Relevance of Sex, Gender and Diversity in Research

In some research projects, taking sex, gender and diversity dimensions into account can prevent 'blind spots' and thus enhance the scientific quality of the results. Reflection on sex, gender and diversity (the latter also sometimes referred to as ‘intersectionality’) should therefore be part of the preparation stage for every project and, where relevant, discussed in the proposal.

Sex, gender and diversity are not of equal relevance in all projects. The importance of these dimensions will vary depending on the research context, topic and methods.

Discipline-Specific Information

Humanities and Social Sciences

Examples of sex, gender and diversity in the humanities and social sciences. Interner Linkmore

Engineering Sciences

Why sex, gender and diversity could be relevant in the engineering sciences. Interner Linkmore

Life Sciences

When sex, gender and diversity are relevant in the life sciences. Interner Linkmore

Natural Sciences

Are sex, gender and diversity relevant in the natural sciences? Interner Linkmore

What does the DFG mean by…


The word sex refers to the biological heterogeneity of organisms.


The word gender refers to sociocultural attributions of traits, roles, behaviours and expectations of the sexes. These attributions may vary by society, country, culture, values and individual understanding.


Diversity as a criterion in the context of DFG proposals includes – beyond gender – dimensions in which people differ, for example age, religion, ethnicity, sexual identity, culture, health condition, life situation or social status.

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Taking into account sex, gender and diversity in research

Taking into account sex and gender or the 'sex and gender dimension' and diversity or the 'diversity dimension' in research can, where relevant, concretely impact the planning, implementation and results of a research project. Sex, gender and/or diversity may be reflected in the choice of methods and categories of analysis; these factors can impact the generation of datasets and hypotheses.

Variety in the sex and gender and/or diversity dimension may be relevant to research projects in various ways, for example in terms of the participating researchers, the animals to be studied, or the human or animal samples to be studied.

By using the checklist provided by the DFG during the project planning stage, applicants can examine whether the sex, gender and/or diversity dimensions are relevant to their research project.

Diversity of the researcher

All researchers have different perspectives, skills, backgrounds, experiences, etc.

Researchers always strive to be as objective as possible in their research in order to achieve research results that are as objective as possible. In some disciplines, however, there are examples of ways in which a researcher's sex and gender or other diversity dimensions can be relevant, with implications for the research result.

In the humanities and social sciences, reflecting on expectations, biases, interaction with the individuals being studied, and many other aspects is often an integral part of critical source evaluation. In the discipline-specific information on this page, you can read about a specific example in the field of ethnology that demonstrates the effects of the social role of the researcher.

Another example of the effects of the biological sex of the researcher is known from the life sciences: In one study it was observed that rats and mice showed reduced reactions in pain research when experiments were performed by male researchers – while tests performed by female researchers or not in the presence of researchers produced uniform reactions. This 'male observer effect' was attributed to the different naturally produced smells associated with the sex of the researcher, which influenced the actual research result.

In most research projects, the sex, gender or diversity of the researchers will play a minor role or be of no relevance. In such cases, there is no need to provide details in the relevant section of the proposal.

Useful Links

Additional information on the relevance of sex, gender and diversity in research is available through the external links below:

Equal Opportunity and Diversity in Research

The relevance of sex, gender and diversity refers to research content and methods, not to equal opportunity in the research system. Further information on this separate topic is available through the links below: