UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows 2019: Janet Bowstead

We are delighted to announce Janet Bowstead as one of our #DataImpactFellows for 2019.

Janet Bowstead is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Royal Holloway, University of London.

Janet Bowstead is a feminist academic with a professional background in frontline, policy and coordination work on violence against women.  Her research is interdisciplinary in nature, across geography, social policy and sociology; integrating quantitative, spatial, qualitative and creative methods.  She has research articles in journals in geography and wider social sciences and social policy.  She is currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Her research draws on theory, concepts and analysis techniques from migration research and applies them to the internal migration journeys of women within the UK escaping domestic violence (  Participatory photography with women who have relocated due to domestic abuse explores their practical, geographical and emotional journeys towards safety and freedom.

Janet’s research

I am currently funded by the British Academy to carry out a mixed methods research project titled: “Women on the move: the journeyscapes of domestic violence”.  This includes quantitative and spatial analysis of administrative service monitoring data from the UK Data Service under Special Licence, and qualitative participatory work with women in London who have relocated due to abuse.

My research investigates the geography of domestic violence journeys – women’s journeys to escape intimate partner violence – at a range of scales.  It explores the significance of space and place, and hears from women themselves about how these journeys, though initially forced, might be part of a practical and potentially positive strategy for safety, autonomy and the remaking of home. It therefore introduces the concept of the possibility of a functional scale for these journeys – “journeyscapes” – whereby women and children travel as far as they need to escape the abuse, but are not forced further than necessary due to constraints of administrative boundaries or service provision. Conceptually and empirically, the research project therefore aims to develop a multi-scaled understanding of both the processes of women’s domestic violence journeys, and their implications.

My research is explicitly policy- and practice-relevant, with a focus on the needs of service commissioners and providers to understand patterns of service access due to domestic abuse, and the types of services needed at different geographical scales.  A specific planned research output is an evidence-based formula for effective domestic violence service provision in terms of location, capacity and catchment area; to enable women and children to escape domestic abuse and access appropriate service support.  This will be based on the historic data accessed under Special Licence from the UK Data Service, to enable future modelling using more recent data from current service provision, including via Women’s Aid. It will be tested via briefing papers and meetings with key stakeholders. It will be grounded in women’s insights and experiences, as explored during the participatory groupwork, and via discussion with domestic violence service providers. As a result of this iterative mixed methods approach, a robust formula will be developed which brings together the evidence at a range of scales from individual to local, regional and national.

The Special Licence Access to Supporting People Client Records and Outcomes is therefore central to my research.  Such administrative data from service records and monitoring enables me to research women’s help-seeking, analysing the geographies of accessing services due to domestic violence and generating associations and patterns.  Use of variables within the UK Data Service data enables analysis of demographic characteristics, and aggregating the data to the local authority scale enables analysis of characteristics of location.  My research therefore presents an England-wide mapping of domestic violence journeys which would otherwise be impossible due to the hidden nature of such forced relocations.  These data and analysis therefore complement the ongoing work by the Office for National Statistics to improve domestic violence data and evidence.

Administrative data from service records and monitoring are an underused resource in research, not least because they are often not archived either by the service providers who generate the records nor the service funders and commissioners who require the monitoring. I have presented at conferences on the better archiving and greater use of such datasets, for example at the Administrative Data Research Network Annual Conference; and include the issues in my research blog.  I have a methodological article accepted for publication this year on “Women on the Move: Administrative Data as a Safe Way to Research Hidden Domestic Violence Journeys” and a co-authored chapter on “Uncovering displacement journeys in administrative data” in a forthcoming ‘Handbook of Displacement’.

Janet’s plans

The UK Data Service Data Impact Fellowship will give me the opportunity to continue to make the case for the de-identification, archiving and research use of such data, which I believe has significant potential to inform policy-making on a range of issues.

My plans for this include networking and presentations with the Ascent Partnership of service provision on violence against women and girls in London.  I have presented at a meeting of the London VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) and Housing Strategy Meeting at London Councils, and have a forthcoming meeting with a data sub-group.  The Fellowship will also enable my ongoing work with organisations like Women’s Aid and other specialist organisations about how they use their administrative data from services and helplines; to support them in developing analysis by bringing their data together with UK Data Service data on locations and populations.

My current research project focuses on England, and particularly London, but I have been approached by service providers and commissioners elsewhere (most recently by Scottish Women’s Aid).  The Fellowship will enable me to respond more effectively to such approaches, including the potential to use the funding for travel.

I will also be presenting on the use of administrative data to the next European Conference on Domestic Violence in Oslo, with the specific aim of exploring the availability of similar service data in other European countries.  The UK Data Service Data Impact Fellowship funding will help towards the costs of attending this conference in September 2019.

The Data Impact Fellowship will therefore build on my existing expertise and collaborations to maximise the potential impact of my work and to make the case for the role that administrative data can have in improving the evidence base for policy and practice responses to issues such as domestic violence.

Janet’s publications


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