Article Text

Ethical reporting of research on violence against women and children: a review of current practice and recommendations for future guidelines
  1. Amber Peterman1,
  2. Karen Devries2,
  3. Alessandra Guedes3,
  4. Joht Singh Chandan4,
  5. Sonica Minhas4,
  6. Rachel Qian Hui Lim5,
  7. Floriza Gennari3,
  8. Amiya Bhatia2
  1. 1Public Policy, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Global Health and Development, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3Child and Adolescent Rights and Empowerment team, UNICEF Innocenti – Global Office of Research and Foresight, Florence, Toscana, Italy
  4. 4Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham College of Medical and Dental Sciences, Birmingham, UK
  5. 5Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Amiya Bhatia; Amiya.bhatia{at}


Changes in research practice during the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates renewed attention to ethical protocols and reporting for data collection on sensitive topics. This review summarises the state of ethical reporting among studies collecting violence data during early stages of the pandemic. We systematically searched for journal publications from the start of the pandemic to November 2021, identifying 75 studies that collected primary data on violence against women and/or violence against children. We developed and applied a 14-item checklist of best practices to assess the transparency of ethics reporting and adherence to relevant global guidelines on violence research. Studies reported adhering to best practices on 31% of scored items. Reporting was highest for ethical clearance (87%) and informed consent/assent (84/83%) and lowest for whether measures to promote interviewer safety and support (3%), for facilitating referrals for minors and soliciting participant feedback were in place (both 0%). Violence studies employing primary data collection during COVID-19 reported on few ethical standards, obscuring stakeholder ability to enforce a ‘do no harm’ approach and to assess the reliability of findings. We offer recommendations and guidelines to improve future reporting and implementation of ethics within violence studies.

  • COVID-19
  • Maternal health
  • Child health

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All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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  • Handling editor Seye Abimbola

  • Twitter @a_peterman, @Alesscguedes, @JohtChandan, @amiyabhatia

  • Contributors Conceptualisation (AP, KD, AG, JSC and AB), data curation (AP, SM, RQHL and AB), formal analysis (AP), methodology (AP, KD, AG, JSC and AB), writing—original draft (AP, KD, JSC, FG and AB), writing—review and editing (all authors). AP, SM, RQHL and AB have accessed and verified the data in the manuscript. AP is responsible for the overall content as guarantor and accepts full responsibility for the finished work and/or the conduct of the study, had access to the data, and controlled the decision to publish. All authors approved the final version.

  • Funding The COVAC study is funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC), grant number MR/R002827/1, which supported the time of AB and KD. The funder did not have a role in analysis, interpretation or manuscript preparation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Author note The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors(s) and not necessarily those of the affiliated institutions or funding agencies.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.