Collaboration or collusion? Involving research users in applied social research

Hoggart, Lesley (2017). Collaboration or collusion? Involving research users in applied social research. Women's Studies International Forum, 61 pp. 100–107.



This paper focuses on the difficulties of pursuing a research agenda firmly based on women's reproductive rights, whilst working in the context of a sexual health policy framework that has different priorities. Drawing on the experiences of two applied social research projects in the area of sexual health, the paper considers the tensions and challenges associated with maintaining a feminist conceptual framework, and simultaneously striving to undertake research that would have an impact on policy and practice. The first project studied young women, abortion and ‘repeat’ abortion: the word ‘repeat’ carries with it notions of a repeat offender, and has been identified as contributing towards abortion stigma. The second project examined why young women may have their contraceptive implant removed ‘early’: acceptance of this word implied collusion with dominant policy conceptions based on a cost effective approach to contraceptive provision. The researchers had some misgivings about the policy framing, and sought to locate the research within an overarching objective of seeking to understand how women's reproductive control might be improved; a very basic feminist outcome that might be shared (at an abstract level) with policy-makers. Research is, however, a messy complex undertaking: in practice, multiple understandings of similar findings are possible and researchers negotiate their final outputs to suit particular audiences. Both projects involved contradictions, uncertainties and potential for collusions which are explored in the paper.

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