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Mapping research recorded on the repositories of NI research-intensive universities

Dr Dina Zoe Belluigi highlights insights about research in NI from a systematic search.

Dr Dina Zoe Belluigi blog picture

To gain an overview of the investment in research that relates to communities in Northern Ireland that are ethnic minorities or migrants, a systematic search was undertaken to identify, collate and ‘tag’ relevant research papers, dissertations and translation activities recorded by scholars on the research repositories of the two research-intensive universities in that context, Queen’s University Belfast and the Ulster University. The project was undertaken by the MME Thinktank led by myself with the assistance of Amanda Lubit. The project was supported in part by Queen’s University Belfast through the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.

We found a total of 176 sources recorded on the databases of the universities that related to MME matters. The earliest was published in 1990; the most recent in 2021. Of these, 72 were published in the past five years.

The categories with the largest amount of research activity across the years were Discrimination (82 items), Criminal Justice (39) and Education (38), while Environment (12) and Housing (18) are the least researched. The figure below visualises the items recorded, with the horizontal line at the top being the overall amount produced, and that below, that which was produced in the last five years. We have given indications of how the content of those items relate to specific topics.

Dr Dina Belluigi infographic

While important studies have been undertaken, finer analysis of the research undertaken in the last five years indicates that there is considerable need for more research. For more on these, have a look at the report which shows patterns within the mapping, or watch the video presentation:

The process of source collection is outlined in the report transparently to the readers, with active hyperlinks to available information. Importantly, the limitations of the report are also made clear, in accordance with responsible reporting of research. For instance, we are clear that the search process was not exhaustive and that interpretation within the report has been kept to a minimum.

The project enabled us to establish an online resource list of this research information for members of the public to access information, with tags added for the ease of searching categories and topics. We hope to continue to grow this library of resources, and that it will be utilized actively by those seeking evidence and academic knowledge; those informing changes to policy and practice.

Considerations that arose

The search and mapping revealed that this is an underresearched area of research in this context, which considerable research gaps.

Methodologies were wide ranging. Much research was about the perspectives or attitudes of the majority ethnicities about migrants and/or ethnic minorities; some included participants from such communities as participants or drew from analysis of data about such groups; less centred the perspectives or experiences of these subject, nor utilised inclusive or democratised methodologies. Challenges to quantitative approaches (in terms of the collection and access to quality data) is alluded to, which requires further research. Related to this, the common wording, categories and terminology used in Northern Ireland created problematics, for example ‘newcomer’ and ‘BAME’. Alluded within some, was the lack of policy attention to migrants and ethnic minorities, and a sense of stakeholders’ entrenchment in sectarian issues to the detriment of such populations.

Dr Dina Zoe Belluigi
School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Recommended reference:

Belluigi, D. Z. 2021. Mapping research recorded on the repositories of NI research-intensive universities. Blog post for 'Queen's on Ethnic Minorities in Northern Ireland'.