The George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute (GWI), in partnership with the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI), has announced the winners of its inaugural Gender-Based Violence 5-Minute Science Fair.
The science fair is an international competition that encourages researchers to create and share short, online videos through WeShareScience.com—a website developed by Ryan Watkins, associate professor of educational technology in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
Dr. Watkins created WeShareScience.com as a way to supplement scientific studies in peer-reviewed journals with videos that are more accessible to international audiences with diverse interests. The website allows researchers from around the world to post five-minute videos about research projects they are undertaking. Similar to Pinterest, users can “pin” videos, create boards and follow others.
“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,” Dr. Watkins said. Recent research further suggests that using video abstracts to complement peer-reviewed journal articles is a growing trend in several disciplines, Dr. Watkins noted.
Last fall, We Share Science launched its 5-minute Science Fair—the first global, online science competition of its kind—inviting researchers from numerous disciplines to submit short videos explaining their projects.
Within this competition, GWI and SVRI sponsored a smaller science fair, focused specifically on research related to gender-based violence. The discipline-specific competition was launched in October at the Sexual Violence Research Initiative 2013 Forum, held in Thailand. Researchers from around the world submitted entries and shared their unique strategies for how to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally.
An expert panel of judges, including representatives from USAID, UN Women, SVRI and GWI, evaluated the videos based on innovation, application and presentation. Winners were announced in July.
The $1,000 grand prize was awarded to the Cambodian Defenders Project, a Cambodian nongovernmental organization, for its short film on sexual violence committed against ethnic minorities under the communist Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. Their research shows that ethnic minorities were disproportionately targeted for violence during this time.
First runner-up for the gender-based violence science fair was Australian researcher Kelsey Hegarty for her video on a research project that assessed whether grief counseling by family doctors could help abused women. Abigail Hatcher, senior researcher at the the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute in South Africa, was awarded third place. Her research project focused on strategies for reducing violence in antenatal care.
Karen McDonnell, an associate professor of prevention and community health in the Milken Institute School of Public Health, was the $4,000 grand prize winner of the overall We Share Science competition, which was judged by researchers from international universities from a range of disciplines. Coincidentally, the research she highlighted in her entry also focused on gender-based violence.
“Make no mistake, gender-based violence is a public health issue,” Dr. McDonnell said in her winning video. “It is not localized; it is an epidemic. Actually, it’s a pandemic. It affects many people—men, women, boys, girls and communities worldwide.”
Despite how many populations gender-violence affects, society’s current thinking on the topic “needs work,” she added.
The research project she shared in her video is Proyecto VOCES (Project Voices), a community-academic partnership that looks at gender-based violence in Latino immigrant communities in Washington, D.C.
Dr. McDonnell and her team talked one-on-one with members of the community. From these interviews, they created a survey, which they used to gain a more broad community perception on gender-based violence in order to design prevention strategies. What the researchers uncovered is that there is a lot of stress in the community—the issue of gender-based violence seemed to be prevalent, but no one wanted to discuss it.
“But after this project, what we’re noticing, is that there is a dialogue,” Dr. McDonnell said. “People are talking about it.”
Dr. McDonnell is now analyzing the results of the survey and working with leaders to keep the dialogue going and create action through innovative programs and strategies.
First runner-up of the overall science fair was William Neidecker-Gonzales, a School Without Walls student, who is working with researchers at GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. For his video, “Autonomous Navigation and Control: Evaluating Methods to SLAM,” he will receive $2,000 from the International Society for Performance Improvement, the lead sponsor of the science fair. A video entered by Miles MacFarlane, a graduate student in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, also won the $1,000 prize for receiving the most number of Facebook likes.
GWI plans to participate in more science fairs of this kind to promote safe and ethical research on gender issues, said Diana J. Arango, a research specialist in GWI.
The winning entries from the 5-Minute Science Fair and the Gender-Based Violence Science Fair can be viewed here.