Research Integrity Framework: Guest Blog by Dr Emma Williamson

Increasingly over recent years questions of research ethics and governance have been considered within the framework of Research Integrity.  For many in academic contexts this means expanding our thoughts about what is ethical in research to what is also ethical in the research environment, whether that be researcher safety, authorship, integrity, and accountability.

Within the field of Gender Based Violence research, these questions of integrity have been at the forefront of the development of GBV as an academic discipline for decades.  As such, many of us working in this area also have a keen interest in research ethics, collaborative research approaches, and what are now called ‘impact’ activities.

It is in this context that a number of academic researchers from across the UK were invited to a meeting hosted by the four Women’s Aid Federations of the UK, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland,  in 2018.

Each of these Federations has a long history of providing support for those experiencing domestic violence and abuse in all its forms.  Each Federation has engaged, over recent decades, in context specific research and policy engagement to challenge the intersecting structural inequalities which impact on domestic violence and abuse.  As such, as both producers and users of academic research, often working collaboratively with academic researchers and policy makers, this was a unique opportunity to bring together those with an interest in ensuring that when we conduct research in this field we do so with integrity.

Essentially, the meeting in 2018 sought to establish what was good practice in terms of ethical research in this field, not a simple or straight forward question.  Following that first meeting it was decided that a Research Integrity Framework (RIF) would be a good way to address these issues and a draft RIF was developed.  That framework, focusing specifically on domestic violence and abuse (DVA) research then formed the basis of two years of development to a document which we believe addresses some of the basic principles in our area of ethical research.

Our approach in the RIF was to base the document on five clear pillars which are S.T.E.E.R:

  • Safety
  • Transparency/accountability
  • Equality, human rights and Social Justice
  • Engagement
  • Research ethics

Within each of these pillars we have tried to capture good practice in research which recognises some of the tensions between collecting data to improve lives of victims-survivors of abuse, and the risks associated with such research.  We have moved beyond simple thoughts of research ethics to consider how Social Justice is envisaged in research collaborations.  How approaches to research and data collection and use, can support or hinder notions of equality or human rights.

As a collaborative team, led by the four UK Women’s Aid Federations, we are delighted that the framework is now being launched.  Alongside the current framework – which we consider as a working document which can develop further over time and with broader engagement – we have a comprehensive dissemination strategy.  We are seeking to engage researchers and research bodies to endorse the framework as a way to strengthen the integrity of research in this field.  We are engaging with individual researchers, research groups, Journals, commissioners who use research, and NGO’s who both conduct and use research.

If you wish to endorse this RIF DVA then please contact Sarika Seshadri Dr Emma Williamson [email protected]

Alongside the four Women’s Aid Federations, the development team also included the following academic partners:  Professor John Devaney[i], Dr Emma Williamson[ii],  Dr. Maria Pentaraki[iii], Professor Nicky Stanley[iv], Professor Chérie Armour[v], Dr Claire Houghton[vi], Dr Nancy Lombard[vii].



[i] Centenary Chair and Head of Social Work, University of Edinburgh.

[ii] Reader in Gender Based Violence, Centre for Gender and Violence Research, University of Bristol.

[iii] Lecturer in Social Work, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast.

[iv] Co-Director, Connect Centre for International Research on Interpersonal Violence and Harm, University of Central Lancashire.

[v] Professor of Psychological Trauma & Mental Health, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast.

[vi] Lecturer in Social Policy and Qualitative Research, University of Edinburgh.

[vii] Reader in Sociology and Social Policy, Department of Social Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University.