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SIPR Studentship Schemes - Process and Results

Research Activites | studentships

A grant award panel, chaired by a Senior Criminological Researcher based in a Scottish University, unanimously decided to award match funded PhDs to the two highest scoring application based on combined ratings from seven reviewers who independently scored each one.

SIPR are delighted to announce the award of two match-funded PhDs in collaboration with Edinburgh Napier University (led by Dr Shane Horgan) and Abertay University (led by Dr Penny Woolnough). These studentships will focus on “The impact of the 2020 pandemic on the police, the public and their relationship” and “Estimation of Risk for Missing Individuals (ERMI): Development of the First Empirical Risk Assessment and Decision Support Tool for Missing Person Investigations”.


This was a very competitive field with seven high quality applications submitted. One application withdrew prior to the announcements of results.

Each application was subject to a robust assessment process involving two review stages. The first stage utlised an independent review panel which convened three senior academics within Scotland, one senior international academic, and three police personnel. Each assessor reviewed and scored all seven applications.

Several precautions were taken to safeguard against conflicts of interest, including ensuring that no reviewer represented any of the applications host institutions. Reviewers were also asked to identify conflicts of interest in person or on the scoring sheet, however, none were identified.

Reviewers scored each of the applications against six criteria including:

• The strength of the supervisory scheme;

• The project’s strategic alignment with SIPR research themes;

• The project’s strategic alignment with Scottish Government and Police Scotland Policing priorities;

• The project’s feasibility;

• The project’s innovation; and

• The perceived benefits and impact of the project.

Applications with the top four highest scores were then considered by the awarding panel held on Thursday 11th June 2020. In addition to the academic chair, this panel consisted of one senior police officer, one senior police staff member, two senior members of the Scottish Police Authority, the SIPR Director, and the SIPR Knowledge Exchange and Business Manager. Using the same criteria as above, this panel was responsible for choosing the two winning studentships.

Ultimately the panel agreed with the initial reviewers and unanimously selected the two applications with the highest scores.

Anonymised feedback on all application have been made available to all applicants.


The two successful applications are:

1. “The Impact of the 2020 pandemic on the police, the public, and their relationship”

Director of Studies – Dr Shane Horgan (Edinburgh Napier University)

Additional Supervisors – Dr Andrew Wooff (Edinburgh Napier University) and Professor Nick Fyfe (University of Dundee)

This project will seek to:

• shed light on the impacts of the 2020 pandemic on the police, the public and their relationship in several contrasting places in Scotland;

• examine the perspectives and experiences of two groups; the police officers tasked with developing and implementing the national response and emergency powers on the one hand, and the communities being policed on the other; and

• focus on generating officer accounts of the pandemic to examine the internal organisational and practical elements of the police response.

2. “Estimation of Risk for Missing Individuals (ERMI): Development of the First Empirical Risk Assessment and Decision Support Tool for Missing Person Investigations”

Director of Studies: Dr Penny Woolnough (Abertay University)

Additional Supervisors – Dr Jenifer Murray (Edinburgh Napier University) and Dr Lynn Wright (Abertay University).

This project will seek to:

• Improve police missing persons investigations which have typically been based on a ‘common sense’ approaches which are prone to significant fallibilities, bias, and decisional error;

• Develop and validate the first evidence based structured professional judgment risk assessment and decision support tool for police missing person investigations; and

• enhance Police Scotland’s status as a world leader in missing person investigation and search through significant theoretical, policy and practice impacts. 

These studentships will now be advertised by both institutions and we look forward to welcoming the successful PhD candidates into the SIPR community.

For further details contact:

Monica Craig – Knowledge Exchange and Business Manager

0131 455 3459

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