In every published research article there is a space to recognize the people who helped make that particular research study possible: The Acknowledgments. Typically, the people that get a mention in the acknowledgements are colleagues who helped with the research by offering a good idea or by reading a draft of the article and providing feedback.
Interestingly, the people that rarely get a mentioned in this section of the paper are the people who participated in the research. So, the acknowledgements section of scientific article is an interesting and funny place. Of course, I should acknowledge my wonderful colleagues who help me with my research. However, without people who are willing to fill out my surveys, provide their opinions, or participate in my research interventions, my studies could never happen.
Often there are very good reasons not to name participants in the acknowledgements or in any part of a research article. Protecting participants' confidentiality and anonymity is critically important in most studies. Such protections are paramount in my research, which is concerned with violence, victimization and survivorship. Still, there are times when I wish I could publically say "Thanks!" to my participants. From my point of view, research participants are the unsung heroes of science.
Recently, I had one of those times when I wanted to acknowledge and say "thank you" to a group of participants. I had a research article published in the journal Violence Against Women. The article described the findings from an exploratory, qualitative study that provided information about helpful, promising practices in domestic violence and sexual assault services. The article reported on findings from 14 in-depth interviews with North Carolina domestic violence and sexual assault agency advocates and directors.
In these interviews, I asked advocates and directors their opinions about what services are most helpful for survivors. After analyzing the data, my research team and I determined findings about (1) critical services for survivors; (2) essential service delivery practices; (3) ideal services that are challenging to deliver because of funding and other barriers; and (4) areas of service delivery practice uncertainty due to a lack of best practices. If you are interested in this study and the research findings from this article, you can read the full piece here.
What I did not get to say in this article is how incredibly helpful and essential the 14 participants were to this research study. Clearly, I could not have conducted this research without the 14 advocates and directors who were willing to give me their time and opinions. Equally important was how welcoming and friendly each of the participants was to me. None of these research participants knew me well and most did not know me at all before I invited them to participate. However, they were all willing to give me their time, as well as their honest opinions and insights.
Beyond the findings presented in this research article, these 14 participants also gave me insights and understandings into their daily lives and their work. Before I conducted this study, my comprehension of what it takes to provide safety services day-in-and-day-out was limited at best. These study participants educated me about the challenging realities of their work, as well as the incredible sense of accomplishment that they have after a job well done.
I can never name or publically acknowledge these participants. As part of my research protocols, I promised all that their participation in this study would remain confidential. Nonetheless, I still would like to thank them here- as publically as possible- for their participation in this study. I would like to give every one of you heartfelt thanks for your participation in this research. Your time, insights and opinions enabled me to write this research article. More importantly to me personally, your participation helped me to understand how important our community-based domestic violence and sexual assault programs are. So thank you all very much.