First two Cabinet Office-funded Evaluation Fellows to use administrative data in evaluating justice services

Funded by the Cabinet Office’s Evaluation Accelerator Fund, Professor Ian Brunton-Smith and Georgina Mathlin have joined MoJ to explore the feasibility of using linked administrative data to evaluate the impact of justice services. This is a jointly led opportunity by the ESRC and MoJ.

The Fellows will work alongside analysts and policymakers at MoJ, applying quasi-experimental methods to linked administrative data to understand whether policy and practice interventions in the justice system are effective at delivering their intended outcomes. These may include reducing reoffending, protecting the public, and delivering swift access to justice. The Fellows will access de-identified linked data (hosted by the ONS Secure Research Service and SAIL Databank) made available through the Data First programme (funded by ADR UK).

These Fellowships will demonstrate how research using administrative data can address priority evidence gaps and inform evidence-based policy for the justice system. They will further facilitate knowledge sharing between academic experts and government analysts, policymakers, and operational colleagues.

The Fellows will produce ‘Data Insights’ and ‘Data Explained’ outputs to share their policy-relevant findings and learning from the data, as well as user guides to support future researchers to conduct impact evaluations using linked administrative data.

Amy Summerfield, Head of Evidence and Partnerships at the MoJ, said: “We are delighted to have Ian and Georgina – and the wealth of expertise they bring with them – join us to help understand the potential of linked administrative data to address critical policy and evaluation questions. Through these Fellowships, we will start to explore how we can make best use of this data to understand ‘what works’ – this is vital for shaping decision-making and improving justice outcomes.”  

Introducing the Fellows

Ian Brunton-Smith is a Professor of Criminology at the University of Surrey and a visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. His research interests include prison effects, the spatial patterning of crime and perceptions of crime, the role of neighbourhood context, and interviewer effects. He is an associate editor for Sociology and the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series, sits on the editorial board of the British Journal of Criminology, and is co-director of the Surrey Centre for Criminology.

Professor Brunton-Smith said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to work directly with analysts and policy makers at the Ministry of Justice on research using the Data First linked datasets. I am looking forward to getting stuck into the data analysis and sharing my findings with the team.”

Georgina Mathlin is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London. She has clinical experience working at a medium secure unit for men with personality disorder, in childcare proceedings, and in Improving Access to Therapies services. Georgina’s PhD evaluated specialist open prison services for offenders with personality disorder. Her research interests include offenders with personality disorder, progression through prison into the community, and desistence utilising causal inference methods.   

Georgina Mathlin said: “I’m really looking forward to working alongside Ministry of Justice analysts and policymakers to evaluate policies and practices using the Data First linked datasets. The Fellowship is an excellent opportunity to show the utility of this data and the impact it can have on informing evidence gaps and policy.”

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