By Lauren Ingeno
Gender-based violence is a horrific reality that exists in every part of the world. And though research in the area is growing, there is still a wide gap in knowledge exchange between those investigating the problem and those taking steps to solve it, said Diana Arango, a senior research associate in the George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute.
The primary goal and theme of the third Sexual Violence Research Initiative 2013 Forum — held in Bangkok, Thailand this week — is to eradicate that gap by turning “evidence into action.”
GWI has partnered with the World Bank to conduct a “systematic review” of gender-based violence intervention research, and the Global Women’s Institute presented their preliminary findings on Wednesday at the SVRI Forum.
The event brings together researchers and practitioners who are able to collaborate and share their work with those who are fighting for the same cause. In order to participate in the forum, presenters submitted an abstract summarizing their research, which was then peer reviewed and scored.
The GWI/World Bank paper summarizes individual intervention strategies from all over the world in order to identify gaps in research and to better understand which practices are most effective in preventing violence against women and girls.
“This is a very exciting piece of work,” said SVRI Program Officer Elizabeth Dartnall. “Identifying what works and what does not work in this emerging field will help to highlight knowledge gaps, identify research priorities and help us work in a more coordinated way.”
Figuring out “what works” and “what does not work” when it comes to tackling gender-based violence globally is a great challenge, said Matthew Morton, a social scientist and gender expert at the World Bank who worked closely with GWI on the paper. He said findings from their paper demonstrate that knowledge gaps are especially large in developing countries, and those are the place where most of the world’s people live.
“The World Bank's partnership with GWI comes at a critical time as the Bank is working to increase its actions to address gender-based violence,” Dr. Morton said. “The collaboration will help us, our clients and our development partners to identify the most promising strategies to prevent and address gender-based violence.”
But once researchers identify what kind of strategies can help eliminate violence against women and girls, how are those strategies actually implemented?
“There is a division between the doers and the researchers,” Ms. Arango said. “The people on the ground are extremely busy, and they need research to be accessible to them in an easy-to-consume way.”
A professor in GW’s Graduate School of Education and Development has created a website to do just that and is working with GWI in the institute’s fight against gender-based violence.
Inspired by the website Pinterest, Ryan Watkins developed WeShareScience.com. It allows researchers from all over the world to post five-minute videos about their research, and similarly to Pinterest, users can “pin” videos, create boards and “follow” other researchers.
“It’s much more accessible than a peer-reviewed research journal article, which no one reads unless they’re an academic in that field,” Dr. Watkins said. “The concept is, if we can get people to do this in a more media-driven way, hopefully it can provide more access to their research.”
On Tuesday at the SVRI Forum, GWI unveiled the Gender-based Violence Science Fair. To enter the science fair, researchers upload five-minute videos about gender-based violence research on to the We Share Science website. Once the submission period is over, a panel made up of GWI and SVRI representatives will judge the research summaries and present the winning abstracts with cash prizes. The money will help fund the proposed research.
For researchers outside of the gender-based violence field, Dr. Watkins is offering a separate five-minute science fair competition, which is open to all international researchers, and offers a total of $13,000 in cash prizes, funded by various sponsors.
The science fair is not designed to trivialize research, but rather to “encourage researchers to consolidate their ideas, crystalize their research discoveries and share those broadly with the world,” explains the We Share Science website.
Dr. Watkins said he hopes the website and the science fairs will help get research out of academia and into the general community, so those actively working to solve problems can more easily find researchers to connect with.