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.
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.
- Magistrates’ court defendant case level
- Crown Court defendant case level
- Prisoner custodial journeys
- Family courts (which can be linked to Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) data via SAIL)
- Criminal courts, prisons and probation linking dataset
- MoJ – Department for Education datashare.
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.
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|