UniSAFE – A pRoject aiming to eradicate gender-based violence in academia and research

UniSAFE is a three-year project funded by the European Commission aiming to eradicate gender-based violence in academia and research. Launched in 2021, the project will provide up-to-date, robust and reliable data on gender-based violence, including newly emerging forms of violence, in universities and research performing organisations. These results will then be translated into recommendations and a toolbox for universities and research organisations intent on eradicating it.

During the first stage of the project, UniSAFE has developed an innovative conceptual framework to investigate gender-based violence and mapped national policies and legal frameworks. The project team is now gathering and analysing quantitative and qualitative empirical evidence on gender-based violence in universities and research organisations through the coordination of a large-scale survey among 46 participating research performing organisations and the conduction of individual interviews.

Collecting evidence of gender-based violence in academia and research through individual interviews

Structural inequalities in research organisations – and the way they intersect – can lead to a higher risk of gender-based violence. From January to May 2022, UniSAFE is conducting a series of individual interviews with researchers all over Europe who have experienced or witnessed gender-based violence, may it be physical, psychological, sexual violence, harassment, online or offline.

“So far, research on sexual and gender harassment in universities and research institutions has suggested that a general climate of accepting or tolerating sexual and gender harassment prevails in academia. Reported students’ experiences of sexual harassment are often said to be minimized by managers or deans, claiming that “nothing serious happened”. (…) Furthermore, hierarchical structures in academia can contribute to a normalization of psychological, physical, sexual harassment on the grounds of gender and other identity aspects. In some scientific fields a lot of time is spent in labs, fieldwork or other settings, the relationship between a student or researcher and their supervisor can develop the grounds for dependency and compliance. Post-graduate students and researchers thus depend on their supervisor or mentor who have the power and authority to control research processes and career prospects. Top department leaders can also have a lot of power when they are in the position to attract funding. This power can be misused, but those depending on the funding would not dare to disclose any harassing behavior for fear of losing their job and/or being publicly shamed.
Within the UniSAFE project, we want to give a voice to researchers whose experiences and stories are often overlooked or unheard due to their specific situation in academia.”

Dr. Vilana Pilinkaitė-Sotirovič, Lithuanian Social Research Centre

The aim of the interviews is to examine these experiences in detail and gain better understanding of how the prevalence of gender-based violence relates to its determinants and consequences. How active are universities and research organisations in preventing, protecting, and prosecuting gender-based violence?

Help eradicate gender-based violence by sharing your personal experience

The project is looking for researchers having suffered or witnessed gender-based violence, particularly in one of the following situations:

  • at an early-career stage (including PhD students)
  • on a non-permanent contract in a university or a research organisation
  • as a mobile researcher visiting a university or research organisation abroad, including Marie Curie fellows

Experiences or witnesses of violence in academia outside these situations are also welcome.

Participants will be invited to share their stories and their observations of institutions’ response or lack of responses in individual, online, and semi-structured interviews in English or in their national language when possible.

The shared knowledge and/or observations will contribute to develop operational tools to improve the prevention, protection, prosecution, provision of services, partnerships and policies at universities and research organisations.

Aware that gathering data on experiences of gender-based violence is a sensitive issue, UniSAFE takes all necessary measures to protect the privacy of participants and the confidentiality of the collected data.

If you are interested participating in an interview and helping to end gender-based violence, please register here: https://unisafe-gbv.eu/share-your-experience/

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