Research integrity framework launched by the four Women’s Aid federations

On the 30th November 2020, the four Women’s Aid federations from Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland published 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.

Research Integrity Framework for Domestic Violence

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 United Kingdom.

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 wellbeing
  • Transparency/accountability
  • Equality, human rights, and social justice
  • Engagement
  • Research ethics

Professor Evan Stark, forensic social worker, lecturer and author of Coercive Control (Oxford, 2007) 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.” 

Sara Kirkpatrick, CEO Welsh Women’s Aid:

“Good quality, responsibly resourced data is crucial in our mission to eliminate violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. It provides a solid foundation upon which to campaign, lobby and challenge structures and systems that do not work for survivors and their families. Across the sector, we are consistently aware of the pervasive nature of gendered based violence but there are limitations on how we can challenge them if the rates are only anecdotal, or if related research is conducted in an unethical way. Poor quality research does a disservice to all survivors; it can be retraumatising, fail to capture experiences on an intersectional level, and runs the damaging risk of misrepresenting the specialist services that support them.

Welsh Women’s Aid are led by the voices and expertise of survivors. We are thrilled to have been able to work alongside our sister federations, partners and academics to create this initiative.”

Dr Emma Williamson from the from the Centre for Gender and Violence Research, University of Bristol outlines the importance of the Research Integrity Framework and what its designed to do in a Guest Blog available here.

The Research Integrity Framework has endorsements from:

Sarah Green, Director, End Violence Against Women and Girls

Eleanor Lisney, Co-Director, Sisters of Frida

James Watson-O’Neill, CEO, SignHealth

Estelle du Boulay, Director, Rights of Women

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, CEO, Surviving Economic Abuse

Dr. Ravi K. Thiara, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick

Dr. Janet C. Bowstead, British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr Shazia Choudhry, Professor of Law and Academic Bencher at the Inner Temple, Department of Law, Queen Mary University of London

Professor Aisha K. Gill, Ph.D. CBE, Professor of Criminology, University of Roehampton

Professor Anitha Sundari, Professor of Gender, Violence and Work, College of Social Science, University of Lincoln

Professor Evan Stark, Ph.D, MSW, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University

Professor Betsy Stanko OBE, University College London

Dr. J. (Janna) Verbruggen, Universitair Docent Criminologie / Assistant Professor Criminology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Professor Marianne Hester, Chair in Gender, Violence & International Policy, Head of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol

Dr Catherine O’Rourke, Transitional Justice Institute in Ulster University

Dr Bronagh McKee

Shelia Simons South Eastern Domestic and Sexual Violence Partnership

Rachel Powell, Women’s Sector Lobbyist

Edel McKenna Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Danielle Roberts, Policy Officer at HereNI

David Douglas, Southern Domestic and Sexual Violence Partnership

Dr Rachel Killean

Natalie Whelehan, policy at NSPCC

Sophie Howe, The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

Yasmin Khan, National Advisor for Wales (Violence against Women, Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence)

The Wales Violence Prevention Unit (VPU)

Dr Ceryl Teleri Davies, Bangor University

Sarah Davidson, Chief Executive, Carnegie UK Trust

Emma Ritch, Executive Director, Engender

Dr. Nancy Lombard, Reader in Sociology and Social Policy, Glasgow Caledonian University

Professor Michele Burman, University of Glasgow

Professor Jennifer Davidson, Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures at the University of Strathclyde

Fran Wasoff, Emeritus Professor of Family Policies, University of Edinburgh.