Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: ADR UK and Ministry of Justice Data First Evaluation Fellowship

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Apply for funding to explore the feasibility of using administrative data to evaluate policy and practice interventions in the justice system.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC funding.

You will need 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.

Your project could focus on either of the following:

  • criminal justice
  • family law
  • civil law
  • court reform.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £177,500. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Who can apply

Eligibility

Proposals are welcome from individual researchers from eligible research organisations:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-approved independent research organisations
  • eligible public sector research establishments.

Check if you are eligible to apply for research and innovation funding.

Read ESRC’s research funding guide.

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 Administrative Data Research UK (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 or have completed one of the safe researcher trainings.

Successful applicants will need to have their project approved by data owners and through the UK Statistics Authority’s Research Accreditation Panel.

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.

Specification

We are looking for applications that demonstrate the following:

  • 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 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 an ability to transfer and apply data skills and expertise to subject areas
  • 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.

Level of security clearance

Baseline Personnel Security Standard is required (this is expected to take up to four to six weeks from submission). See national security vetting: clearance levels (GOV.UK).

Time commitment

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 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 full time equivalent (FTE) 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.

What we're looking for

Applications are invited for two evaluation fellows to explore the feasibility of using administrative data to evaluate policy and practice interventions in the justice system. Fellows will use quasi-experimental methods to understand whether specific interventions are effective at delivering intended outcomes, such as:

  • reducing reoffending
  • protecting the public
  • 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) or the SAIL Databank through the Data First programme, led by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and funded by Administrative Data Research UK (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
  • court reform.

Research priorities

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 (GOV.UK) 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 HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s (HMCTS) reform programme (for example, the impact of digital services on access to justice), in line with the HMCTS Reform Evaluation Framework.

This aligns 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.

Fellowship phases

The fellowships will follow three phases.

Scoping phase (three months, February 2023 to April 2023)

Fellows will work with the following to co-design the evaluation activity:

  • MoJ
  • HM Prison and Probation Service
  • HMCTS
  • ONS
  • ADR UK.

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 to 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 (three months, May 2024 to 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.

Location

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 (or offices) to connect with colleagues as necessary.

Objectives

The fellows will work with analysts at the MoJ to identify scope for further quasi-experimental evaluation activity, using data from the ONS SRS, that 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.

The objectives are as follows:

  • scope the feasibility of linked administrative datasets to understand their potential 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.

Funding available

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £177,500. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost. If your application is linked to another applicant as a proposed job share, the total cost of the combined applications should not exceed the full economic cost of £177,500.

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 through knowledge exchange opportunities such as seminars and roundtables.

About the data

Fellows will access linked MoJ data for England and Wales, hosted by ONS SRS 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.

Datasets include:

  • magistrates’ court defendant case level
  • Crown Court defendant case level
  • prisoner custodial journeys
  • family courts (which can be linked to Cafcass data by SAIL)
  • probation
  • criminal courts, prisons and probation linking
  • 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 GOV.UK website (MoJ Data First).

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You can find advice on completing your application in:

We recommend you start your application early.

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.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: ADR UK Data First Evaluation Fellowship

This will populate:

  • council: ESRC
  • 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.

Deadline

ESRC must receive your application by 26 October 2022 at 16:00.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Attachments

The following attachments are mandatory:

  • case for support (maximum three sides of A4)
  • CV, including publication summary list (one side of A4)
  • justification of resources
  • head of department statement
  • mentor’s statement and CV (if applicable).

Attachments should be uploaded in PDF (rather than Microsoft Word) format, to reduce document corruption issues. With the exception of letters of support, attachments should be in font size 11 with 2cm margins (recommended font type is Arial or Garamond).

Case for support

This is the body of your fellowship proposal. It must not exceed three sides and must include the following sections:

  • vision for fellowship
  • evaluation expertise
  • previous relevant work
  • understanding of the evidence priorities for the justice system or approach to applying data skills to new subject areas
  • knowledge exchange and impact plans.

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.

The case for support should be a self-contained description of the proposed work with relevant background and references, and should not depend on additional information such as the inclusion of external links.

Peer reviewers are advised to base their assessment on the information contained within the application and are under no obligation to access such links (so they should not be used to provide critical information).

CV

A CV for the fellow, named research staff member and consultant must be included.

This should include:

  • contact details
  • qualifications (including class and subject)
  • academic and professional posts held since graduation
  • a list of the most relevant and recent publications
  • a record of research funded by ESRC and other bodies.

This should not exceed two sides of A4.

Justification of resources

This is a two-side A4 statement justifying the resources required to undertake the research project. Where you do not provide an explanation for an item that requires justification, it will be cut from any grant made.

Proposals that include co-investigators from the UK business sector or from third sector organisations that engage in economic activity must ensure that the involvement of these organisations complies with state aid legislation.

Proposals that include co-investigators from third sector organisations that are deemed not to engage in economic activity must provide evidence of this status in the justification of resources.

Please refer to the Je-S helptext for further guidance.

Head of department statement

The head of department at the host research organisation must complete a statement in support of the proposal. The statement should:

  • confirm that the applicant would be accepted into the department for the purpose of undertaking the proposed programme of work
  • explain how the proposed programme of work would fit in with the department’s wider research programme.

Mentor statement and CV

If applicable, a mentor statement and CV (for each mentor) should be attached.

The mentors should ideally have research experience in the same field as the applicant but should not be, wherever possible, the PhD supervisor. The mentor will need to be a senior colleague within the host institution.

The reviewers take the role of the mentor seriously and will look for strong evidence of support. The mentor statement should demonstrate that the mentor:

  • has considered the applicant’s needs carefully and tailored their programme of support to their individual needs
  • will ensure the applicant is kept active and focused throughout their award
  • will also keep the applicant’s long-term career prospects clearly in mind.

The mentoring time should be between one and three hours per week.

The combined statement and brief CV for the primary mentor needs to be added as attachment type ‘Other’ and should not exceed two sides of A4.

Where there is more than one mentor, the mentor statement should be completed by the primary mentor but must detail the contribution to be made by all mentors.

Brief CVs of no more than one side of A4 should be attached for each mentor.

How we will assess your application

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 the week of 5 December 2022 through an online communications platform. When the funding opportunity closes, you 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.

Read UKRI’s principles of assessment and decision making.

The panel will assess the quality of your written application and your interview performance against the following criteria:

  • 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 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 areas of research interest 2020 and listed in the ‘what we’re looking for’ section), or an ability to transfer and apply data skills and expertise to subject areas
  • 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.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Please share this funding opportunity with your networks and contacts as appropriate.

Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) team

Email: hub@adruk.org

Accredited researcher queries

Email: adrcuration@ons.gov.uk

Methodology, data linkage, research questions, data and metadata queries (including feasibility)

Email: datafirst@justice.gov.uk

Get help with Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

This opportunity is funded by a successful bid to the Cabinet Office’s Evaluation Accelerator Fund (EAF) that was led by ESRC and the Ministry of Justice.

Announced by the Chancellor at the autumn 2021 budget, the EAF is aimed at addressing nationally important evidence gaps by supporting research activity that could inform future policy and spending decisions. The EAF is particularly targeted at supporting research using experimental and quasi-experimental methods.

Supporting documents

ADR UK Data First Evaluation Fellowship Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 535KB)

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 187KB)

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