Bristol and Women’s Aid develop best practice framework for domestic violence research

A new framework has been developed by Women’s Aid in partnership with academic colleagues - including the University of Bristol - to promote best practice in research into domestic violence and abuse (DVA).

The Research Integrity Framework aims to give policy makers and commissioners more clarity on the merits of different types of evidence and research, and the principles of integrity relating to DVA research.

The framework is the culmination of two year’s work led by the four Women’s Aid federations of the UK, together with academic colleagues including Reader in Gender Based Violence, Dr Emma Williamson , from the University of Bristol’s School of Policy Studies.

“We recognise there is not always space to present information on the fundamental principles informing both the conduct of research and utilisation of findings in briefing papers, executive summaries and press releases. We have created this framework to enable researchers to indicate their adherence to some fundamental principles in an abbreviated format,’ said Dr Williamson.

The framework was officially launched as part of the United Nations 16 days of action against violence against women.

The framework, whilst specific to the issues of research integrity in the research of domestic violence and abuse, is an example of the need for the co-production of guidance for researchers and those they work with.

As Ethics Officer for the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, Dr Williamson knows the importance of collaboration when considering the risks and benefits of conducting research with integrity.

“In the social sciences we often work with NGOs, policy makers, commissioners and wider community groups to produce rigorous research, and we do so within a Research Ethics structure which is intended to promote the benefits of that research whilst identifying and reducing risk.

“This new framework demonstrates the need and benefits of thinking beyond research ethics, to consider the wider principles of integrity which are important when conducting ‘ethical’ research.

“We are fortunate at the University of Bristol to have a highly skilled and dedicated Research Governance team within Research and Enterprise Development who work closely with researchers and oversee the University’s broader Research Integrity commitments. My experience of working with this team certainly helped in drafting the initial research integrity framework which was then developed by the wider team.’

The framework is built around five pillars all research with integrity should adhere to: Safety and wellbeing; Transparency/Accountability; Equality, human rights and social justice; Engagement; and Research Ethics.

In highlighting this framework, Dr Williamson and authors hope to spark debate among colleagues who may also benefit from developing their own research integrity frameworks.

“We hope that as well as offering guidance to researchers, this approach to research integrity also sparks wider discussion about how we can all be better researchers, and what that means in the wider social landscape we find ourselves in.

“Importantly, by locating issues of equality and social justice in the framework’s design, this tool brings wider concerns about equality, diversity and inclusion to the fore,’ said Dr Williamson.