Good Practice in Global Data Collection

Good Practice in Global Data Collection on Trafficking in Persons: The Science (and Art) of Understanding TIP

Implementing Agency: NEXUS Institute

Geographic Scope: Global

Years: 2014-2018

Project Summary:Effective efforts to combat trafficking in persons (TIP) are predicated on methodologically rigorous, reliable and ethical data acquisition, appropriate data management systems, as well as sound, objective and insightful analysis of that data. To combat trafficking, we need evidence-based knowledge – a collective and sophisticated understanding of the nature and scope of the problem (the what, how, why, where and when) – as well as data about what interventions do (and do not) work to combat it. Equally, we need to guard against weak or faulty data, which has the potential to cause disproportionate harm, including to trafficking victims, when used to design or support ill-conceived and ungrounded public policy and programmatic interventions on TIP. Without high quality data, both on victim protection and on trafficking prosecutions, it is not possible to design effective policies and interventions or to monitor and evaluate anti-trafficking efforts in a meaningful way. And yet TIP data collection is not uncomplicated; it involves a raft of methodological, ethical and practical issues and considerations. Collecting and analyzing information in smart and sophisticated ways is needed on all aspects of human trafficking to achieve tangible results in prevention, protection and prosecution.

This project is an in-depth exploration of good practice in TIP data collection globally, as well as guidance on how to better conduct TIP data collection. The findings are based on a thorough literature review and the knowledge and experience of interviews with more than 120 TIP researchers, TIP experts, TIP data collection project staff and National Rapporteurs-equivalent mechanisms engaged in collecting data on trafficking in persons and more than 400 trafficking victims who have been involved in TIP data collection or research. The NEXUS project resulted in a publication series which includes:

  • The Science (and Art) of Understanding Trafficking in Persons: Good Practice in TIP Data Collection
  • On the Frontlines: Operationalizing Good Practice in TIP Data Collection
  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Data Collection on Trafficking in Persons
  • Good Practice in TIP Data Collection: Recommendations for Donors and Funders

The four publications in this series are practical resources and references for various stakeholders in the anti-trafficking community (researchers, data collection staff, policymakers and practitioners) in their efforts to undertake and enhance TIP data collection and analysis. The project contributes to on-going efforts in the anti-trafficking field to enhance robust data collection on trafficking in persons. The project was generously funded by the United States Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP).


Project Publications and Studies:

The Science (and Art) of Understanding Trafficking in Persons: Good Practice in TIP Data Collection (2019)


This study identifies and explores good practice in TIP data collection in the areas of protection and prosecution, to inform and guide future anti-trafficking efforts. It begins by outlining what constitutes good practice in TIP data collection and the criteria to be considered in making this assessment (for example, data quality; relevance and usefulness; accessibility; timeliness; cost appropriateness; and attention to legal and ethical issues). The study then uses these criteria to examine current TIP data collection and research practices in different countries and regions, including the strengths and limitations of the various approaches. The study outlines five stages of TIP data collection – 1) design and planning; 2) data collection; 3) storage, maintenance and management; 4) analysis; and 5) use, presentation and dissemination – and explores the raft of issues that may arise at each of these stages as well as good practice examples at each particular stage. It draws on existing research and resources on TIP data collection, as well as the collective knowledge and experiences of TIP researchers, data collectors, TIP experts and trafficking victims globally to offer practical guidance, lessons and tools in how to implement TIP data collection efforts. The target audience of this publication is anti-trafficking professionals, organizations and institutions that are currently or are planning to collect TIP data.


On the Frontlines: Operationalizing Good Practice in TIP Data Collection (2019)

These guidelines, based on lessons from past and current TIP data collection efforts, are for frontline staff from governments, international organizations (IOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who are engaged in TIP data collection. The guidelines are based on good practice and lessons from The Science (and Art) of Understanding Trafficking in Persons: Good Practice in TIP Data Collection and offer step-by-step guidance and checklists on how to conduct TIP data collection in a constructive and ethical way and in line with existing work and mandates.


Legal and Ethical Issues in Data Collection on Trafficking in Persons (2019)


Executive Summary

Data collection on trafficking in persons (TIP) is an important part of anti-trafficking efforts, including for protection, prosecution and prevention purposes. There has been increased emphasis on gathering TIP data in recent years and, commensurately, growing awareness of the legal and ethical considerations associated with doing so. There are many legal and ethical complexities at play in how anti-trafficking researchers and professionals undertake TIP data collection. The legal and ethical frameworks relevant to TIP data collection differ by country, context and project and may also be informed by a range of other factors, including the type of data being collected, who is collecting data, where data collection takes place, who is funding data collection, whether data collection involves a group requiring special consideration, whether there are emerging issues affecting the existing legal and ethical framework and so on. This study explores the legal and ethical issues that arise when conducting TIP data collection, including the intersections and, at times, the tensions between the two. It examines legal and ethical issues in the context of traditional types of data collection, as well as emerging forms of TIP data collection. This study draws on concrete examples and experiences of those working in the field of TIP data collection from different countries globally to identify what issues and problems may arise, how these may be addressed, as well as the complex on-going discussion and debate around these issues, which remain largely unresolved. The intention of this study is to encourage discussion around these complicated issues, while acknowledging the grey zones in ethical and legal assessments of how TIP data is and should be collected and protected. This publication is intended for anti-trafficking actors engaged in TIP data collection across its varying forms and from different approaches, particularly prosecution and protection.


Good Practice in TIP Data Collection: Recommendations for Donors and Funders (2019)


These recommendations for donors and funders offer guidance on how to support TIP data collection before, during and after data collection takes place. They aim to maximize the positive contribution that donors and funders are already making to the field of TIP data collection.



Photograph by r2hox. Some rights reserved.