How does military service affect women? As it turns out, researchers don’t exactly know the answers to this question, and that’s why some of them recently formed a new collaborative,

multidisciplinary project to find out more.

The group, known as the Consortium on the Health and Readiness of Servicewomen (CHARS), comprises more than 30 private and public researchers from the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) in San Diego as well as from academia, the government and private institutions. Their areas of expertise include epidemiology, neurocognitive psychology, nursing and family studies.

“Understanding the unique concerns that impact only women or issues that impact both men and women in different ways is really important if you want to maintain a ready force,” said NHRC research psychologist Stephanie McWhorter in a statement. “Our hope is to produce useful information that military leadership and civilian policymakers can use to establish best practices in the prevention, intervention and screening of health issues.”

In a recent article in Naval Medical Research and Development News, the consortium was described as timely given new military policies that directly affect female service members, including the end of a ban on ground combat roles for women and the extension of benefits to same-sex spouses.

The consortium members have experience in research where gender can play an important role, such as suicidal behavior in men and women; differences in coping with stress; biological and genetic risk factors associated with post-traumatic stress disorder; and the effects of deployment on military families.

CHARS is not the first project of its kind; other efforts like the Women’s Health Task Force and the Defense Women’s Health Research Program have focused on similar research. CHARS, however, is meant to spotlight existing research and bring researchers together to work on new studies.

“We want to encourage people to engage in more collaborative, multi-disciplinary research so we can produce findings that can help the Defense Department,” McWhorter said.