Co-ordinating a research project in 6 continents

We live in a world where we can communicate with someone across the oceans with a single click and this facilitated research on sexual harassment and sexual assault in transit environments.

The challenge and joy of coordinating a research project in 6 continents in the era of the internet

Vania Ceccato

 

Vania Ceccato is a researcher at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. She is also a BSC International Ambassador.

 

This story is about the challenges and potentialities of doing collaborative work in Criminology using your own computer, with no funding, but supported by a ‘gaggle’ of a highly motivated researchers, ready to work.  Back in early 2016 I was teaching undergraduates how to put together a graduation thesis and teaching them how to apply a survey to general population. I incentivized my students to explore their own mobile phones and digital devices to make the data collection. Through this I taught them how to carry out an online survey and later critically analyze the collected data. I had long wished to question Metro passengers about their safety perceptions; so I handed my students questions on sexual violence and sexual harassment in transit in particular.

That did not work very well. Students were, overall, reluctant to ask such questions and passengers were unwilling to answer them. However, I do not attribute this failure to the students or passengers.  At that time, most of us did not feel comfortable talking openly about sexual harassment, at least when compared to recent years. Therefore, it was no surprise that my students were fairly reluctant to ask transit riders about their experiences of sexual harassment while using transit. Just a year later, the appearance of the #MeToo! Movement on the internet and outside cyberspace made it easier to get information about these problematic daily-life experiences. I decided then to have another go with the survey but this time asking my own students about sexual harassment.

Things went much better—the survey was answered by more than 1500 university students in the Stockholm region. Additionally, it later gained answers from 13,323 students worldwide, in 18 cities (as shown in map below)!

Ceccato Globe

What prompted this sudden change? This project originally began with the suggestion from a colleague in USA. She thought we should extend the original survey, apply it in our respective universities, and write a comparative paper. So we did. In the process, I mentioned our ideas with colleagues in a global user-list and suddenly, we were 14 universities engaged in this global project: researchers wanted to take part and apply the survey in their own universities, from Lagos- Nigeria to Vancouver-Canada, from Tokyo-Japan to Bogota-Colombia, 3 others came along during the process. It was amazing to see so many people, determined to see this project succeed. We did not have any funding to offer and I thought it would be a big of waste of everybody’s time if people would give up along the process … but it was worth it the risk.

I was lucky in having my colleague and mentor Prof Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris at UCLA coordinating this research enterprise with me. She was equally engaged and very interested in getting an overall picture on sexual violence/harassment in transit environments. Apart from the time difference (when she was waking up in Los Angeles, I was ready to go home from work!), it was lovely to have Anastasia to discuss ideas, worries, share instructions and support anyone in the group.

Of course, in a project of such global scope, there will always be incongruences and challenges when collecting and analyzing the data. This study was no exception, we faced a number of challenges: particularly when communicating over email and using various online sharing-platforms. Interestingly enough, most of the challenges we faced had nothing to do with technology or limited funding.

One of the earliest problems was the need to obtain approval from the university and/or from a special Ethical Review Board before approaching the students with the questionnaire. This process turned out to be longer than we expected and varied from country to country (taking around one to four months). I thought some of my colleagues would give up along the way, but thankfully they persevered!

Then came translation. In order to make comparisons with other cities possible, questions were later translated into seven languages (English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese and Chinese) using Google Docs. This sharing platform ended up working very well and greatly simplified the process.

More complicated, were the differences in local and cultural norms. It was impossible to standardize all questions. In some cities the ‘race’ question in the USA (‘ethnic background’ in Sweden) was substituted with “country of birth/origin question”. In certain cases, the race/ethnicity question had to be omitted because in cities, the law does not allow asking questions on race, ethnicity or religious beliefs. Similarly in some cities, it is not considered appropriate to ask about someone’s sexual orientation in surveys, and our colleagues had to omit such questions.

We exchanged information mostly by email, and during the process of data collection and analysis, we split ourselves into smaller groups. Many of our meetings were performed over Skype or the similar communication platforms. Remote meetings did not always work but ultimately, we were able to put together a schedule of tasks to accommodate time differences between Manila, Stockholm and Los Angeles.

In all but two cases, the researchers were able to gather the minimum requested sample size of 300 students (some got more than 1000 students). To do so, they often had to follow different strategies such as adding an additional university, having a raffle with small rewards of “lucky money”. The questionnaire was distributed in different ways. For the large majority of cases, the survey was distributed electronically, either using a web platform, (for example, WordPress, Google Docs, etc.) email lists, or university pages with links to social media and to external electronic questionnaires. In a few cases, researchers distributed hard copies combined with an electronic version while in two cases, the link to the survey was posted on social media. 18 cities in 6 continents resulted in 13,323 students worldwide.

With data in hand, we provided instructions to all researchers to follow a particular set of research questions. Out of 18 case studies, 10 researchers presented their preliminary results in the Conference Crime and Fear in Public Places in Stockholm in October 2018, when a proposal for an edited book was suggested (the book proposal was later approved in early 2019). In order to homogenize the analysis and presentation processes, we created a framework of analysis and shared this via email with our colleagues. They were later invited to write essays of 2,500 words discussing their findings and contextual facts about their city. Using Skype or other communication platforms, they also worked in groups in four chapters putting together data, forming statistical analysis together and then writing.

However, our broad analysis brought with it some problems. For example, why did city A have 35% while city B had 78% in a particular question? Did they understand the instructions of analysis? This process was not always straightforward. It took months until we could agree upon a minimum set of questions and answers that were the same for everyone. Together with my co-coordinator in the USA, we combined statistics, compared results, checked and double-checked numbers and references. During that time we sent hundreds of emails, back and forth, before finally writing the final chapters, often with help from my colleagues. By August 2019, the edited volume was nearly complete. Yet, it took more than a month or so for us to get all permissions and high resolution pictures into one place before we finally submitted the book. There were many complications but eventually we did it!

So what can we take away from this research? The survey showed, without any doubt, that sexual violence/harassment in transit environments is unfortunately a common occurrence globally. However, the extent of harassment, ranges considerably from one city to the other. Additionally, the omnipresence of the potential for harassment in transit settings, leads to the adoption of certain behaviors on the transit riders behalf. Avoidance strategies prompt transit riders to avoid particular times, travel routes, and settings that are deemed as, particularly risky, or even avoid using transit completely, opting for other transportation options. This, of course, demands changes in the way transit systems are built, but also long term changes in society’s values and attitudes towards mobility and safety—both being highly gendered. We finalized this research by critically drawing from the results of the empirical work and proposing recommendations on how to respond to sexual harassment and sexual assault in transit environments.

So what can be learnt from the experience of doing research over emails and communication platforms?

We live in a world where we can communicate with someone across the oceans with a single click! This opens a door to a new world of possibilities, whether it be contacting a family member, friend, or doing research with colleagues.  It was a long and bumpy journey, but a worthwhile one. Our experience shows that it is possible to carry out a Global study like this one.  If you want to try to do something similar in the future, make sure you have three things before you start:

  1. Clear aim and objectives and some pretty good ideas how to achieve them
  2. A computer, internet and some ‘basic internet knowledge’
  3. (Most importantly) A great motivated group of researchers you can rely on to ensure that things are done on time, ethically, and with good care for the research process and quality of data. You might want to share the research coordination with someone senior, more experienced researcher in the area.

A book summarizes this joint efforts (Transit Crime and Sexual Violence in Cities: International Evidence and Prevention) and is coming out soon from Routledge. Country reports might be available on requestA special issue of International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice will be available in March 2020. On behalf of my colleague Prof Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris at UCLA, USA, I would like to thank everybody that took part in this project, and in particular, a friend from the UK who directly contributed to the original survey applied in Stockholm in 2016. Thanks!

 

Contact

Vania Ceccato, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

Email: vania.ceccato@abe.kth.se

 

Images: courtesy of the author

 

5 Studies and a New Direction in Indian Criminology

The MPhil program currently offered at the Department of Criminology, Raksha Shakti University is unique and applied in nature

Originally published in LinkedIn and republished here with the permission of the author

JaishankarKaruppannan Jaishankar, BSC International Ambassador, Professor of Criminology, Raksha Shakti University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India and President, South Asian Society of Criminology and Victimology (SASCV), India.

 

 

When I joined the Raksha Shakti University (RSU), Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, as Full Professor of Criminology in 2016, I initiated the first MPhil Program in Criminology at RSU and it was greatly supported by Shri. Vikas Sahay, IPS, the Director General of RSU, and Dr. S. L. Vaya, the then Director (R&D).

Further, Dr. Akshat Mehta, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Police Administration, Raksha Shakti University, Dr. Sony Kunjappan, Assistant Professor, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, and Dr. Sukhdev Mishra, Scientist B, National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, Mr. Rooshabh Mehta, Assistant Professor of Statistics, RSU significantly assisted the MPhil Program in Criminology with sincerity and dedication.

I have supervised many PhD students and found their methodological skills are not up to standard, as the academic rigor was missing in their coursework. Hence, I felt that a one year MPhil program can be good bridge between the research student and his/her future doctoral research. Also, the research student can leave with a research degree in an year and they can be in the field, either as a researchers/ teachers or social entrepreneurs.

So far, five MPhil Students have successfully completed their MPhil program under my guidance and supervision. What makes these five researches unique is the novelty of the research problems. All the five researches are oriented towards policy and significantly contributed to fill the gap in their respective literature.

Dr. Sony Kunjappan, an Indian Criminologist, working as an Assistant Professor at the Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar was the External Examiner to these five researches and he ensured the quality and assessed them with finesse. Dr. Sony not only supported the MPhil program as an external faculty and examiner, but, he contributed in the preparation of a new curriculum “Criminal Justice Governance.”

Jaishankar1

In the photo: Left to Right – Mr. R. Ramesh Kannan (MPhil), Prof. K. Jaishankar, Dr. Sony Kunjappan and Mr. R. Rochin Chandra (MPhil).

5 Criminological Researches

  1. “Contemporary Status of Indian Criminology: A Qualitative Assessment” (2017)

Mr. R. Rochin Chandra, currently Director, Centre for Criminology and Public Policy, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India.

The main thrust of this study was to examine the present status and future prospects of Indian criminology in relation to scientific and professional needs. In doing so, an attempt was made (i) to assess the curriculum and training of criminology at the post-graduate level, (ii) to look critically into criminology as an area of professional practice in the country, and (ii) to determine the impact of criminological research in the construction of crime and justice policy. The qualitative case study research served as the main methodology for this study. The study involved the case study of 28 participants from academics, criminal justice agencies, criminal justice support groups, civil society organizations, and professional societies of Criminology. Purposive sampling was used to select the participants for the personal interviews. The participants were asked to participate in formal, semi-structured interviews. The individual interviews were recorded, transcribed, member-checked and analyzed using Creswell’s data analysis process. The study found that the post-graduate curriculum for criminology does not match with the needs of professionals and practitioners. The dialogue with participants also helped to understand the significance of developing a working relationship with the policy maker, practitioners and qualified politicians in creating the job opportunities for criminology graduates. In addition, the participants also viewed that criminologists should engage with media, and disseminate their research findings in order to influence the crime and justice policies.

2. “Effectiveness of Close Circuit Television (CCTV) Surveillance in Victimization Prevention: A Study of Campuses in Tamil Nadu” (2017)

Mr. R. Ramesh Kannan, currently teaching at Kamaraj College, Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, India.

The main objective of the study was to find out the effectiveness of CCTV’s in victimization in academic institutions. Data was collected in five major districts (Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli and Virudhunagar) in Tamil Nadu; 60 samples from each city was collected based on purposive sampling technique (totally N=300). Data was entered using MS-excel and exported the database into the SSPS version 20.0 for the analysis of the data; both descriptive statistics as well as inferential statistics were used to explain the data from various aspects. Based on the data analysis, the researcher found that both students and academic faculties/staffs felt that CCTV surveillance cameras in class room are un-comfortable; in contrary the majority of the respondents opined that their privacy was vaguely interrupted due to CCTV surveillance cameras. In addressing the main objective of the study, the researcher found that the majority of the respondents strongly acknowledged that CCTV surveillance cameras help in prevention of crime/victimization, help students to behave well, prevent unauthorized intruders, deter sex offending (eve-teasing/sexual harassment) and also prevent bullying/ragging This finding makes it evident that CCTV surveillance cameras were effective in victimization prevention. On the other hand, the researcher found that CCTV surveillance cameras invade privacy and also made the respondents un-comfortable. The researcher feels that there should be a balance between the use of CCTV surveillance cameras and the violation of privacy rights.

Jaishankar2

In the photo: Left to Right, Mr. Karuna, D. S. (MPhil), Mr. S. Manikandan (MPhil), Dr. Sony Kunjappan, Dr. Divyashree, Assistant Professor, Department of Criminology, RSU, Professor K. Jaishankar, Ms. Shabana Sheikh (MPhil), and Ms. Leepaxi Gupta, Intern, Department of Criminology, RSU.

3. “Pharmaceutical Drugs Crime in South – West India: A Policy Oriented Study” (2018)

Mr. Karuna, D.S., currently, Doctoral Research Scholar in Social Sciences, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

The main objective of the study was to examine pharmaceutical drugs crime in south – west region of India. In doing so, an attempt was made (i) to examine pharmaceutical drugs crime (ii) to explore pharmaceutical industries crime (iii) to scrutinize illegal trade of pharmaceutical crime and (iv) to examine the pharmaceutical crime and criminal justice system. The qualitative methodology was mainly used for this study. The study involved the semistructured questionnaire of 57 respondents and data was collected from zonal director, superintendent, and intelligence officers (Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Indore and Ahmedabad) of Narcotics Control Bureau. Purposive sampling was used to collect data from the respondents. Based on the case study analysis and data analysis, the researcher has addressed pharmaceutical crimes as a multifaceted criminal activity that creates irreparable loss to the citizens. This study has also highlighted the need for law enforcement and the public health sector to work together in order to prevent illicit medicines from entering the market and to prosecute those responsible. Hence, coordination and concerted efforts are the need of the hour to counter and encounter effectively in order to combat pharmaceutical crimes.

4. “Victimization Narratives of Rohingyas: A Qualitative Study at Bangladesh Refugee Camps” (2018)

Mr. S. Manikandan, currently, Research Assistant, Centre for Transparency and Accountability in Governance, National Law University, Delhi. 

The main focus of this research study was to explore the victimization faced by the Rohingyas in Myanmar and in Bangladesh as refugees as well as victimization faced due to the refugee camp situation and problems associated with refugee camps. The objectives of the study are (i) To examine the violence, persecution and collective victimization of Rohingyas in Myanmar. (ii) To analyse the victimization and problems faced during migrating from Myanmar to Bangladesh. (iii) To assess the victimization due to the refugee camp situation and problems associated with the refugee camp. Qualitative case study method was adopted. The study involved the case study of 18 participants from the Rohingyas at a Bangladesh Refugee Camp and the researcher personally visited the Camp for data collection. Purposive sampling was adopted to select the area and population as refugees are special population, and is residing only in refugee camps at Bangladesh. The individual interviews were recorded, transcribed, member-checked and analyzed using Creswell’s data analysis process. Based on the research study the researcher has found three phases of victimization of Rohingya refugees which are: (i) Violence, persecution and collective victimization of Rohingyas in Myanmar, (ii) Victimization and problems faced during migrating from Myanmar to Bangladesh, (iii) Victimization due to the refugee camp situation and problems associated with the refugee camp. The researcher also found that, there is a chance of a fourth phase of victimization which may arise during the process of repatriation and rehabilitation. This phase of victimization will include secondary victimization and psychological trauma.

5. “Domestic Violence against Muslim Women within a Context of Islam: A Qualitative Study” (2018)

Ms. Shabana Shaikh, currently, Independent Scholar on issues of Crimes against Muslim Women.

The purpose of this research study was to discover the experience of Muslim women in Ahmedabad city who were subjected to domestic violence and find the stand of Islam pertaining to the violence against them. The main questions that focus in this research are: the experiences of domestic violence in Muslim women; the effect of socio-demographic factors; and which cultural, social and religious factors in the Islamic tradition play an important role for domestic violence against Muslim women. Qualitative case study research method is adopted as a primary methodology for this study. Purposive sampling was used for the data collection. The reported cases of domestic violence of Muslim women during 2017-2018 were collected from office of District Protection Officer and District Dowry Prohibition Officer. The primary data for the study was collected after going through total 324 cases from all over the Ahmedabad district. Out of 324 registered cases total 49 cases of Muslim Women were selected. The information was noted out from registered application by respondents that were screened by the Protection Officer to ensure the anonymity of the respondents. Descriptive-explanation of each individual case was constructed and document case study methodology was adopted for the study. Documentary Research Method was used for data analysis. Due to time constraints only 15 cases are presented in this study. The study found that the Muslim women are experiencing violence mainly due to the demand of dowry in many forms and threats of divorce from both husband and in-law’s. The women are facing violence because of lack of education, poverty, unemployment and dependency. The important finding is the lack of Islamic knowledge and practice among the Muslim community in the regard of issues like divorce, domestic life and behaviour with women.

Conclusion

The MPhil program currently offered at the Department of Criminology, Raksha Shakti University is unique and applied in nature. All the above discussed researches submitted to the Raksha Shakti University will be soon turned in to research products, such as, book, book chapters and or research articles. These researches are novel, original, policy oriented and written for both Indian and International Scholars. Except one, four of the researches adopted qualitative research methodology which is not much used in Indian criminological researches (Indian criminological researches are more oriented towards quantitative methods and heavily influenced by American Criminology). These researches also give a new direction to Indian Criminology.

 

Copyright free images courtesy of the author