Coming out of academic comfort zones – embracing dissemination of research findings to all research users
(15 May 2017)
It has been almost ten years now since Professor Liz Kelly and I first started our programme of research into domestic violence perpetrator programmes – known as Project Mirabal. Since finishing the research in 2015, we have of course been engaged in a range of dissemination events.
Examples of this dissemination include attending and presenting our findings to the 2015 Labour Party and Conservative Party national conferences, recording and uploading to YouTube our end of grant conferences, and working with practitioners and policy makers to ensure that their day to day work activities develop in line with our findings. The dissemination period is likely to last almost as long as the research itself took, with invitations to speak and offers of international visits still flooding in.
Why, then, did one form of dissemination seem so difficult for me to do?
Once of the intentions had always been to communicate our research findings to all ‘stakeholders’, to use the academic term – and of course in a study about domestic violence perpetrators this has to include the perpetrators – men who use violence and abuse within relationships - themselves.
Of course, some of our publications are aimed at a general audience, for example our article published in The Conversation reached nearly 5,000 readers. Some of these would have been domestic violence perpetrators of course, but to say that an article such as this is covering our engagement with men who use violence would, I think, be disingenuous.
We did have a dissemination plan, and yesterday we eventually took a big step forward towards producing five short films aimed directly at men who use violence and are thinking about attending a domestic violence perpetrator programme. The videos use our qualitative data from interviews with men to show some of the responses which were given in response to the following questions
Script 1. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to a man who uses violence or abuse against his partner?
Script 2. How do you feel now you’re at the end of the programme?
Script 3. How did you feel about the groupwork?
Script 4. How much do you think you’ve changed as a result of being on the programme?
Script 5. What has been the most helpful thing someone said to you?
Once the videos are produced, in collaboration with Pod Designs who are doing the design work, we hope that the videos will be available on YouTube for anyone to view. We anticipate them being used particularly in introductory one to one sessions with men who have reservations or concerns about attending such programmes.
On reflection about why it took me so long to get around to these films, I could mention maternity leave, I could mention other projects, but the bottom line is the work felt some way out of my academic comfort zone. Opening a document and titling it ‘video scripts’, asking my male colleagues and research students with different regional and national accents whether they would mind doing some voiceovers for me and, by the way, you will be voicing the words of a domestic violence perpetrator – all made me feel not exactly nervous, but not comfortable. Give me a standard policy briefing note to draft any day!
So it was with some relief as we left the media suite in the Palatine building yesterday that the scripts were written, the voiceovers were recorded, and the films are now well on their way to being available. And it wasn’t difficult, it wasn’t uncomfortable when it came down to it - it is just a different way of doing dissemination. It is my assertion that we need to step outside of our academic comfort zones more often, supported appropriately by the university to do so, and make sure that we do not get lazy with our dissemination efforts and we fully embrace all of our potential research users using a broad range of mediums.