Home Society & Culture Groundbreaking Research Integrity Framework Launched by the Four Women’s Aid Federations

Groundbreaking Research Integrity Framework Launched by the Four Women’s Aid Federations

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Today, the four Women’s Aid federations from Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are coming together to publish a framework to show the quality of research on domestic abuse. Developed with and endorsed by academic researchers, this framework provides decision-makers with clarity on the merits of different types of evidence and research, and the principles of integrity relating to research on domestic abuse

The framework brings together the knowledge and experience of both academic and NGO partners, drawing on feminist research practice since the 1970s. Going back 50 years, the four federations emerged from the women’s liberation movement and were largely survivor-led. Each federation has engaged, over recent decades, in context-specific research to transform policy, services, and the lives of women and children across the UK. 

This framework recognises that those engaged in collaborative research and evaluation have a responsibility to nurture sound, ethical research and to discourage research practice that is unethical or misrepresents itself and/or victims-survivors’ experiences. 

The framework sets out the critical importance of grounding research on domestic abuse within the wider field of violence against women and girls, taking an intersectional approach and ensuring that research focusing on minoritised groups should be carried out by researchers from organisations led by those groups.

The four Women’s Aid federations want researchers, organisations, journals, national and local policymakers, and commissioners to sign up to the five pillars set out in this framework:  

  • Safety and well-being 
  • Transparency/accountability 
  • Equality, human rights, and social justice 
  • Engagement 
  • Research ethics

This framework is intended to start a discussion about what good research practice relating to domestic violence and abuse looks like. The four federations believe that it can form the basis of a broader framework for research in other international contexts, and for further work in relation to research with specific groups, such as black and minoritised women. They welcome discussion to develop this framework in collaborative and appropriate ways. 

Professor Evan Stark, forensic social worker, lecturer and author of Coercive Control said: ‘The Five Pillars of Research Integrity provide an indispensable framework for building a body of knowledge about domestic violence and abuse that is sound, respectful and based in the experience of the women and children who bear the brunt of coercive control. It responds to the question “knowledge for what?” by ensuring that principles of equity, accountability and justice are built into the research enterprise and making clear that knowledge must always benefit those who provide its substance, whatever other goals it serves.’

Nicki Norman, acting chief executive at Women’s Aid Federation of England, said: ‘On behalf of the federations of the four nations, we are delighted to launch this framework together with our partner academics. Evidence is critical to our work. Drawing on our national databases, our expertise and the experiences of survivors we and our member services work with, we aim to ensure that policy and practice is based on the real needs of survivors and their children.

‘It is vital that research on domestic abuse is carried out with integrity. This means ensuring diverse survivors – and the organisations that represent them – are meaningfully and safely engaged with. It means that research is grounded in [an] appropriate context and its methodology, and any limitations, are clear and transparent. This transparency is essential for policymakers, commissioners and practitioners to make informed judgements on decisions which impact the lives of survivors.

‘Sadly, over the years we have seen how poor survivor engagement has left survivors re-traumatised, how patchy evidence has been misused to close essential services, and how the experiences of large groups of survivors have been erased by poorly-framed questions. We are pleased to have been able to work with some of the country’s leading academics and our partners to develop what will be a useful tool to drive best practice in this field.’

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