Welcome to my blog

I thought this would be a great way to tell everyone about the many interesting things that I do in my professional life as a researcher, writer and educator. At the moment, my interest is mainly focused on policing and more specifically on police custody i.e. where people are taken on arrest whilst a decision is reached about charge. Watch this space for updates on my whirlwind academic life.

About Me

My photo
Layla Skinns is a Senior Lecturer in criminology in the Centre for Criminological Research at the School of Law, University of Sheffield. Before joining the Centre for Criminological Research, Layla worked at the University of Cambridge, where she was the Adrian Socio-Legal Research Fellow at Darwin College and a Teaching Associate on the MSt. in Applied Criminology for senior police, prison and probation staff. Whilst working as a Research Fellow at Darwin College, she co-organised the prestigious Darwin College Lecture Series on the theme of risk. Her qualifications are: MA (Hons) Sociology and Psychology, University of Edinburgh, 2000; MPhil Criminological Research, University of Cambridge, 2001 and PhD Criminology, University of Cambridge, 2005

Friday, 20 December 2013

Making an impact?

In the world of social science research, there is ever increasing pressure on academics to be able to show that their research makes an impact, with impact being built into grant applications, at least for some funders like the Economic and Social Research Council through 'Pathways to Impact' statements. Indeed, in my latest study on 'good' police custody, impact is an integral part of it, in that one of the aims of the research is produce a set of benchmarks setting out what the research shows about 'good' police custody practices and, in addition, create a survey tool for police forces to monitor their performance against these benchmarks on an on-going basis.

The focus on impact is laudable. Indeed, one of the reasons why I became an academic was in the hope that in some small way my research would be able to make a difference to someone's life and to society, more generally. I still hang on to that - perhaps idealistic - dream. At the same time, there is definitely a debate to be had about the potentially stifling effects of the growing attention paid to impact in the social sciences. My concern is that the focus on impact may obscure the quest for understanding, knowledge and for learning, which are all laudable aims in themselves and which were also part of the reason why I became an academic. 

My other concern is that the focus on impact might also consign theory and the more scholarly aspects of social science research to the cutting-room floor, at least until busy academics can find the time to pick up these pieces again and mould them into publications for consumption by our peers. Yet, theory should be at the heart of any academic discipline as it can be used to test, refute and confirm hypotheses, but can also lead to a development of theory. Though, the exact role played by theory in research is contentious, its centrality to research is not.

 Anyway, I digress, what I wanted to write is that in a few small ways I think my research is slowly percolating its way through the ether and is beginning to make an impact. First of all, I was delighted to hear the news that the provision of appropriate adults was to be extended to 17 years olds through a revision in the PACE Codes of Practice in October 2013. An anomaly in the law meant that, hitherto, 17 year olds were classified as adults in the police station, unlike in other parts of the criminal justice system. The report that I researched and wrote research for the Howard League on the overnight detention of children is one of the few studies to have flagged up this important issue and I would hope, therefore, that it was used to contribute to the public debate and subsequent change in government policy.  

Second, today, I rather excitedly discovered that my research about access to legal advice in police stations (Skinns, 2011) was included in discussions about the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill 2013:Equality Impact Assessment. In particular, it has been used in discussions about when a person's right of access to a solicitor arises, how this is communicated to the person and the circumstances in which this right can be waived, taking into account the likely vulnerabilities of detainees. Let’s hope that these provisions are adopted in law in the near future.

 I hope that my new research on ‘good’ police custody will also make a similar, if not greater contribution to the world of policing and beyond, though it will probably be a few years before I am in a position to judge this. Watch this space.

No comments:

Post a Comment