Funding opportunity: Using linked justice system administrative data to evaluate the impact of justice services
8 August 2022
We are accepting applications for two Evaluation Fellows to carry out an ambitious 18-month project funded by the Cabinet Office’s Evaluation Accelerator Fund. Fellows will co-design and deliver on defined project(s) to evaluate the effectiveness of selected interventions in the justice system using linked administrative data. This is a jointly led opportunity between the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
You can register now for an applicant webinar taking place on Thursday 15 September 2022, 13:00 - 14:30. In the webinar, you'll hear more about this opportunity and have a chance to ask any questions.
The deadline for applications is 16:00 on Wednesday 26 October.
About the opportunity
Two Evaluation Fellows will explore the feasibility of using administrative data to evaluate policy and practice interventions in the justice system. They will use quasi-experimental methods – research designs that aim to identify the impact of specific interventions – to understand whether interventions are effective at delivering intended outcomes, such as reducing reoffending, protecting the public and delivering swift access to justice.
The Evaluation Fellows will access de-identified and linked administrative data made available in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service (SRS) and/or the SAIL Databank through the Data First programme, led by the Ministry of Justice and funded by ADR UK. They will use this existing linked data to explore interactions across justice services over time, including courts, prisons and probation services, and assess the impact of changes in policy and practice on user outcomes.
Possible areas of focus for the projects include criminal justice, family law, civil law and court reform. The Fellowships will follow three stages:
Scoping phase (3 months, February 2023 – April 2023): Fellows will work with the MoJ, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and ADR UK to co-design the evaluation activity. They will submit their project proposals to data owners and the ONS-administered independent Research Accreditation Panel for approval.
Implementation phase (12 months, May 2023 – April 2024): The Fellows will explore the feasibility of using Data First datasets to evaluate policy and practice interventions and conduct quasi-experimental evaluations using linked justice administrative datasets. The Fellows will provide regular updates and discuss their progress at Project Board meetings.
Impact phase (3 months, May 2024 – July 2024): The Fellows will disseminate their findings to key stakeholders across MoJ and other government departments, as well as HM Treasury. Findings will be published as appropriate on GOV.UK and the ADR UK website, with associated academic publications in open access formats.
The Fellows will work with analysts at the MoJ to identify scope for further quasi-experimental evaluation activity, using data from the ONS SRS, which will explore priority evidence gaps. The Fellows will also produce user guides to support future researchers wishing to conduct impact evaluations using justice data in the SRS, as well as ‘Data Explained’ outputs to share learning on the usability and limitations of the data.
Scope the feasibility of linked administrative datasets to address justice policy and practice interventions
Deliver evaluation findings with clear policy and practice implications for the criminal, civil and family justice systems
Engage with MoJ analysts, policymakers and operational colleagues to ensure insights are effectively understood and disseminated
Demonstrate the value of using existing administrative data for impact evaluation purposes and build a strong economic case for expanding work in this area
Work alongside MoJ analysts to build capability in quasi-experimental design methods.
About the data
Fellows will access linked MoJ data for England and Wales, hosted by the ONS SRS and/or the SAIL Databank. The datasets provide rich information on people and cases as they interact across the criminal and family courts, prisons and probation services. Linking these datasets provides new and unique opportunities to enhance understanding of the pathways, needs and outcomes of justice system users.
Further information about the content of these datasets can be found in individual data catalogues and a user guide, published on the MoJ Data First webpage.
The aim of the Evaluation Fellowships is to establish whether different policies and practices within the justice system are effective in delivering intended outcomes of reducing reoffending, protecting the public and delivering swift access to justice. Evaluation Fellows will help to fill vital evidence gaps, including those outlined in the MoJ Areas of Research Interest 2020 and contribute to better evidence-based policy across the justice system.
Fellows will work alongside MoJ teams to co-design the evaluation programme, and identify the most policy-relevant, timely and impactful evaluations that are feasible with the data.
Examples of areas that the Evaluation Fellows could focus on to inform policy and practice include:
Criminal justice: looking at the frequency of reappearance and reconviction before the criminal courts for specific groups of offenders who differ in a key outcome (such as sentencing, custody, or post-custody supervision) because of legislative, policy or practice changes. Fellows could also explore strategic crime prevention priorities – looking at the impact on reoffending of different sentencing outcomes for high-frequency recurrent offences, such as burglary and vehicle crime.
Family law: exploring the impact of changes to processes, practices or policy (for example, the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce or the implementation of a 26-week timeframe for public law cases) on volume, cost and return rate of cases through the family courts.
Civil law: assessing the impact of recent changes in housing law, such as legislation preventing bailiff enforcement of evictions during the pandemic in England, on the numbers of orders made and enforced.
Court reform: evaluating an aspect of the complex and wide-ranging HMCTS court reform programme (for example, the impact of digital services on access to justice), in line with the HMCTS Reform Evaluation Framework.
The Fellowships align with the UK government’s National Data Strategy to transform the government’s use of data – including unlocking the potential of linked administrative data – to understand the impact of services and make improvements that benefit service users.
Eligibility and applications
Proposals are welcome from individual researchers from eligible research organisations.
Researchers on fixed term contracts will be eligible to apply if their institutions are willing to extend their contracts to cover the period of the fellowship.
We will be looking for demonstrable experience of working with large datasets coupled with a willingness to engage with other researchers across the ADR UK partnership, as well as policymakers.
Experience in the justice space or using justice administrative data is not essential. We will be looking for the ability to apply relevant skills and experience to these datasets.
You will need to become an accredited researcher of the Office for National Statistics Secure Research Service (ONS SRS) or have completed one of the safe researcher trainings. Read the safe researcher training list.
Successful applicants will need to have their project approved by data owners and through the UK Statistics Authority’s Research Accreditation Panel.
Joint applications are not permitted for this opportunity. However, applications can still include mentorship and research assistance where necessary. You should be the one to use and lead on the analysis of the dataset(s).
Letters of support from other organisations, both academic and non-academic, are also welcomed, as we are keen to ensure that research is relevant and well-received.
This opportunity is open on a job share or job splitting basis. We are open to applications on a part-time basis and welcome applications for proposed job shares.
If your application is linked to another applicant as a proposed job share, please state this in your case for support and set out your proposed arrangements.
If your application is on a part-time basis, our assessment panel and colleagues at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will look to match you with another part-time applicant on a job-share basis.
We have a minimum time commitment of 0.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) for the core implementation phase for each job share partner. We do not have minimum time commitments for the scoping and impact phases. When combined, the time commitment from job share partners should not exceed 1 FTE.
Expertise in and experience of quasi-experimental methods using large-scale datasets, including working with administrative and novel datasets and assessing data quality and reliability
Understanding of the analytical needs of government stakeholders and an ability to grasp and respond to these effectively at pace
Subject matter expertise in one or more of the justice research priorities (as outlined in the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) areas of research interest 2020 and listed in the ‘what we’re looking for’ section), or ability to transfer and apply skills and expertise to new topics
The ability to translate complex information and analysis into meaningful, easily understood narrative for a non-academic audience, verbally and in writing
Understanding of the challenges and opportunities of co-production and collaboration including with non-academics
The ability to design and lead activity that supports effective knowledge exchange between research, policy and funder communities
Value for money across all budget areas requested, including where relevant for wider institutional mentorship and support.
What we will fund
Each Evaluation Fellow will receive funding up to a maximum of £177,500 at 100% full economic cost. The Evaluation Accelerator Fund will fund 80% full economic costs.
The Fellowships can be offered part-time (at least 0.5 full-time equivalent) and full-time, and can include job-share arrangements.
How to apply
You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.
You can find advice on completing your application in the:
Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.
Submitting your application
Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S. We recommend you start your application early.
When applying, select ‘new document’, then:
document type: fellowship
scheme: research fellowship
call/type/mode: ADR UK Data First Evaluation Fellowship.
Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.
Case for support (three pages)
Vision for Fellowship
Evaluation expertise: previous relevant work
Understanding of the evidence priorities for the justice system
CV, including one-page publication summary list
Justification of resources
Head of Department statement.
We must receive your Je-S application form and mandatory attachments by 26 October 2022 at 16:00. You will not be able to apply after this time.
Assessment will have two stages. All applications will be assessed and shortlisted by a panel of academic and non-academic experts. A maximum of eight applicants will be invited to attend an interview with panel members.
Interviews are expected to take place in the week of 5 December 2022 via an online communications platform. When the call closes, all applicants will be informed of the final interview dates and when we expect to inform you if you have been shortlisted. We expect an informal funding decision will be communicated by 16 December 2022.
Funding approval and offer letters are expected to be issued by mid-January 2023 with a latest start date of 6 February 2023.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) supports the San Francisco declaration on research assessment and recognises the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.
Fellows will be embedded within an MoJ team with the support of a line manager and other team members. MoJ staff are based in several locations nationally, offering geographic diversity. We anticipate the Fellow will adopt a hybrid approach, working flexibly between home and the MoJ office(s) to connect with colleagues as necessary.
Level of security clearance
Baseline Personnel Security Standard (expected to take up to 4-6 weeks from submission). See National security vetting: clearance levels - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Training and development
The Fellows will benefit from wider support, networking opportunities, and learning and development available to MoJ Data and Analysis colleagues. They will be supported by the MoJ Evidence and Partnerships Hub in the translation, dissemination, and application of their work for policymakers, including via knowledge exchange opportunities such as seminars and roundtables.
|ESRC activity||Expected timeframes / deadlines|
|Call opens||9 August 2022|
|Applicant webinar||15 September 2022, 13:00 - 14:30|
|Call closes||26 October 2022|
|Panel meeting||25 November 2022|
|Interviews (shortlisted applicants)||Week of 5 December 2022|
|Latest project start date||6 February 2023|
|Project end date||July 2024|