Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Analyse the probation and criminal justice system linked dataset

Apply for funding to analyse the new probation and criminal justice system linked dataset.

You will help improve understanding of the criminal justice system.

You must:

  • have demonstrable experience of working with large datasets
  • be based at a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC funding.

You should be willing to engage with other researchers across the Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) partnership, as well as policymakers.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £130,000. ADR UK will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Your project can last up to 12 months.

Who can apply

We welcome proposals from individual researchers from eligible research organisations, in line with ESRC’s standard eligibility criteria. See the ESRC research funding guide for further details.

Early career researchers may apply, but they must have a mentor.

Researchers on fixed term contracts are eligible to apply if their institutions are willing to extend their contracts to cover the period of the fellowship.

Joint applications are not permitted for this funding opportunity. However, applications can still include mentorship and research assistance where necessary. The fellow should be the one mainly using and leading on the analysis of the dataset or datasets.

We also welcome letters of support from other organisations, both academic and non-academic, as we are keen to ensure that research is relevant and well-received.

What we're looking for

Applicants must have demonstrable experience of working with large datasets.

They should be willing to engage with other researchers across the ADR UK partnership, as well as policymakers.

Experience of Ministry of Justice data is not essential.


We are looking for fellowship proposals that meet the following three objectives:

  • useful research: proposals that will act as ‘pathfinders’ for conducting research and deriving insights from the dataset, and which showcase the potential for policy impact and public benefit
  • useful data: proposals that will develop the data as a useful research resource for future users
  • useful engagement: proposals that will foster opportunities between academia, government, the third sector and the public to allow fresh thinking to flourish and maintain public acceptance of the use of data for research purposes.

You should read the general funding opportunity specification (PDF, 340KB) for more information on these objectives.

Research topics

The Ministry of Justice, which is the data owner, has summarised its research interests in relation to this funding opportunity. These are listed below. However, you may also choose to answer other questions.

Research topics that you could develop include, but are not limited to, the following:

Protect the public from harm

Sentencing options, including alternatives to custody

Research questions could include:

  • what factors affect the likelihood of different groups receiving different sentences, including custodial, community or other court disposal sentences? How do sentencing recommendations vary by the availability of different sentencing options?
  • what are the enablers and barriers to effective sentences, including community-based, alternative or short custodial sentences? Are certain types or requirements of sentences, or recommended treatment programmes, more effective for different individuals and groups?
  • how has the use of non-custodial sentencing changed over time?
  • what makes an effective pre-sentence report (PSR)? How do PSRs, including their use of language, affect sentence length, type and consistency? What factors, including judicial views and confidence, influence the use of PSRs, and why has this changed over time?
  • what contributes to effective electronic tagging and monitoring, including sobriety tags and GPS and radio frequency trackers, in protecting the public from harm? Are there specific groups of individuals for whom electronic tagging and monitoring is more effective?
  • how can antisocial, violent and criminal behaviour linked to alcohol and drug use be addressed beyond traditional criminal sentencing?
Custody and custodial arrangements

Research questions could include:

  • what is the impact of home detention curfew, in advance of custodial sentence completion, on individual outcomes and risk to public protection? How can home detention curfew be improved?
  • how do licence periods, conditions and durations affect the potential for recalls? What are the downstream impacts on individual outcomes and risks to public protection?

Reduce rates of reoffending and improve life chances

Research questions could include:

  • how can short periods in custody be made more effective at reducing reoffending? What are the effects of longer custodial sentences on crime?
  • how effective are rehabilitation activity requirements, and in what ways can they be improved?
  • who are the ‘repeat users’ of the criminal justice system? What are their characteristics? How often do they return? How do outcomes change on each return to the criminal justice system?

What we will fund

You may apply for either a part-time or full-time research fellowship, but the recommended minimum is 60% full-time equivalent.

You may also request funding for:

  • salaries, plus nominated research support staff or mentorship time (early career researchers must have a mentor)
  • travel and subsistence
  • engagement or events specific to the project
  • public engagement
  • production of outputs, for example, blogs or policy briefs
  • training.

Please note that priority will be given to proposals that use all the linked datasets, that is, prisons, probation and Crown Court.

Accreditation and approval

You will need to become an accredited researcher of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Secure Research Service.

Successful applicants will also need to have their project approved under the data owners’ information governance review process.

Aims of the research

ESRC expects applicants to consider the potential scientific, societal and economic impacts of their research. Relevant outputs, a dissemination plan and clear communication of the impact of the research will be key criteria for most of the peer review and assessment processes.

It is therefore important to set out how you intend to identify and actively engage relevant users of the research, as well as other stakeholders. Stakeholders may come from within and beyond the academic community, including:

  • the public sector
  • the private sector
  • civil society
  • the general public.

You should also include evidence of any existing engagement with relevant end users. You should articulate a clear understanding of the needs of the end users of your proposed research, and consider ways to meet or impact  those needs.

Your proposal should also outline how the legacy of your proposed activity will be managed. You should set out how it will engage beneficiaries and provide lasting value to participants, stakeholders and the wider social science community.

Opportunities for making an impact may arise, and should be taken, at any stage during the research lifecycle. This includes:

  • the planning and research design stage
  • the period of funding
  • all activities that relate to the project, up to and including the time when funding has ended.

The research lifecycle involves:

  • knowledge exchange and impact realisation activities, including reporting and publication
  • the archiving, future use, sharing and linking of data.

You must have in place a robust strategy to maximise the likelihood of impact opportunities and your own capacity to take advantage of them.

To be effective, all communication, engagement and impact activities must be planned in detail and properly resourced. Throughout the relevant sections of the research proposal, you should actively consider how these impacts can be maximised and developed.

The Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 300KB) contains further information about how to consider impact in your proposal.

COVID-19 guidance

Please read the COVID-19 guidance for grant applicants before applying.

How to apply

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

When applying, select:

  • council: ESRC
  • document type: fellowship
  • scheme: research fellowship
  • call/type/mode: ADR UK Probation and Criminal Justice System linked dataset 2022.

You must submit the ONS provisional accredited researcher form at the same time.

When ONS has completed an initial review of your application, you will be asked to submit the Ministry of Justice application form for secure access to data as soon as possible, for data owner review.

This funding opportunity will close at 16:00 on 12 May 2022. It will not be possible to apply after this time.

Please read the Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 300KB) for further information.

How we will assess your application

Following basic office eligibility checks, research applications will be assessed by a funding panel made up of independent expert reviewers. At least two individual members will review and score each proposal.

Final funding recommendations will be made at a panel meeting of all reviewers in July 2022. Recommendations will be subject to full data owner approval.

We expect the outcomes of the funding panel to be communicated within two weeks of the meeting. Applications will then go through a formal governance review process.

We expect funding approval and offer letters to be issued in October 2022. Projects must start by 13 January 2023.

Assessment criteria

The assessment criteria we will use include:

  • the potential of your administrative data research to impact public policy, and the likelihood of you demonstrating this
  • scientific merit
  • how likely you are to address the research questions with the data available and produce research outputs within the timeframe
  • your knowledge and experience
  • value for money
  • data owner approval.

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.

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.

Ask about this funding opportunity

General queries


Specific methodology or accredited researcher queries


Data linkage, research question, data and metadata queries (including feasibility)


Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Applicant webinar

An applicant webinar will be held on 25 March 2022, with presentations from the data owners and ADR UK.

This will give applicants further information about this funding opportunity and the chance to ask any questions they may have in person.

Register to attend the webinar (eventbrite).

Supporting documents

ESRC research funding guide

General funding opportunity specification (PDF, 340KB)

Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 300KB)

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