Data determine what we know about the menstrual cycle; they inform policy and program decisions; they can point us to neglected issues and populations. But collecting and analyzing data are complicated and often fraught processes, because data are political and subjective, decisions on what data we collect and what data we do not collect are not determined by accident. As a result, despite the significant potential of the current rise in attention to menstruation, there are also risks, including:
- a lack of a solid evidence base for program decisions and resulting sensationalization;
- concerns about data privacy;
- an overreliance on participants’ recall;
- not involving participants adequately in decision making; and
- a lack of contextualized and disaggregated data.
In their recent paper taking the form of a conversation, members of the Working Group on Menstrual Health and Gender Justice discuss the promises and perils of data about menstruation and bring their various disciplinary backgrounds to bear. The paper is based on a plenary panel held at the biennial conference of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research in Colorado Springs in June 2019. The authors argue that better communication, contextualization, and collaboration can address many of these risks.
The full paper can be accessed here:
Inga T. Winkler, Chris Bobel, Lauren C. Houghton, Noémie Elhadad, Caitlin Gruer & Vanessa Paranjothy (2020) The Politics, Promises, and Perils of Data: Evidence-Driven Policy and Practice for Menstrual Health, Women’s Reproductive Health, DOI: 10.1080/23293691.2020.1820240