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Nicole Xu/The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail has won an international data journalism award for its Unfounded series investigating how Canadian police services handle sexual-assault cases.

"We are profoundly grateful for the global recognition we have received from Vienna," The Globe's editor-in-chief David Walmsley said. "At The Globe and Mail we realize we have a responsibility to produce the best journalism and to deliver it across borders. The investigation, Unfounded, stands as the global benchmark for 2017."

The Data Journalism Awards, organized by the Global Editors Network, recognized the Unfounded team – Robyn Doolittle, Laura Blenkinsop, Jeremy Agius, Rick Cash, Stephanie Chambers, Terra Ciolfe, Michael Pereira and Shengqing Wu – for having the best data-driven investigation, which shed light "on a significant abuse of power or failure to uphold the public interest."

Read more: Why police dismiss 1 in 5 sexual assault claims as baseless

The 20-month investigation collected data from about 175 police forces in Canada and found that one in five people who reported sexual assault to police had their case dismissed as "unfounded" – a code used when an investigating officer believes an allegation is baseless and that no crime occurred. The data showed that sexual-assault complaints are nearly twice as likely to be designated unfounded as physical assault allegations.

Following the investigation, the federal government announced $100-million to combat gender-based violence. The ministers in charge of Public Safety, Justice and Status of Women promised better oversight, training and policies and to date, 54 police services – about a third of the country's forces – have committed to auditing thousands of sexual-assault cases going back to 2010.

The Data Journalism Awards are the first international awards recognizing outstanding work in the field of data journalism worldwide.

Shortlisted nominees for this year's award for best data-driven investigation included the the New York Times, der Spiegel, and The Guardian Australia. Last year, the honour was awarded to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for the Panama Papers project.