There is an obvious connection between public gender equality work and gender research, but it is not easily defined. Gender research is in some cases directly focused on current gender equality policies and in many cases delivers new data for politicians and bureaucrats to deal with. Research is to be free from political or other influences. Still, gender research is dependent on financing from public authorities.
The principle of academic freedom and integrity, that research is to be independent of various interests, is also true for gender research. Nevertheless, this field of research has been linked to the new women’s movement during the 1970s and 1980s, and to the gender equality work of today. And it is true that gender research produces knowledge relevant for gender equality policies, and it is involved in, for example, analysis of the preconditions, the methodologies and the effects of these policies.
Does this mean that gender research in Norway is always research for gender equality? A simple answer is no. Gender research is a multifaceted, interdisciplinary field of research with no common agenda or aim. As any other research field there are different schools and opinions, theories and methodologies, among researchers on how gender research relates to gender equality policies, for example. Some researchers see their work as direct or indirect contributions to gender equality work, while others question gender equality policies as being based on heteronormative, middle class or other biased assumptions about women and men. Some point out the risks of talking about “women” and “men” as groups, rather than “doing gender” as continually constructed and transformed.
Nonetheless, there is a close connection between gender research and gender equality - gender research delivers new knowledge and insights crucial for the gender equality debate and the work being done. In many cases new topics for political discussion and policy work have arisen from gender research - but the connection differs depending on the fields of study, on the need of or interest in new data and the current level of knowledge among practitioners and politicians etc. There are also other parties with valuable knowledge - in many cases it might be the non-governmental organisations (women’s movements, interest groups, organisations, etc.) that have the best knowledge of the actual situations and needs of, for example, disabled, age-discriminated or trafficked women.
Gender equality policies and their consequences are among the topics for projects undertaken within the research institute sector on behalf of public authorities and organizations in the private and public sector.