My key research interest is the construction and use of data for social research. Specifically, the implication of different methods for the construction of ‘knowledge’ and the impact of these on policy and practice. The construction of data fundamentally underpins the production of ‘knowledge’ yet is rarely explicated and therefore rarely challenged.
This research agenda began back in 2013 with a graph published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using CSEW data, which appeared to show a declining rate of violent crime by stranger and acquaintance perpetrators, but a cessation of decline by domestic perpetrators. Colleagues and I applied for an ESRC SDAI grant to investigate whether the trend in domestic violent crime was diverging from that of other forms of violent crime. What we found was a statistical manipulation of incident data in the construction of crime statistics for England and Wales (Walby, Towers and Francis 2014). A long-practiced statistical technique of capping repeat crimes in order to reduce variance was disguising a rise in violent crime against women and a rise in domestic violence (Walby, Towers and Francis 2016). It was also disguising an important difference in the trend of victim/survivors of domestic violent crime compared to other forms of violent crime, and the frequency of violence against a specific group of female victims/survivors (Walby, Towers and Francis 2016). We used this work to lobby the ONS to change the way they measure repeat victimisation in the official crime statistics for England and Wales – which they did from 2019.
The research to this point clearly demonstrated the significant impact of the construction and use of data on understanding trends in violence and challenged the conventional focus of criminology on violence as between male strangers in public spaces. We built on this, working with an international team of violence researchers, to offer an international measurement framework for violence against women and men (Walby, Towers et al. 2017). We also looked at the measurement of human trafficking in research commissioned by the European Commission (Towers, Francis and Walby 2016), along with a later project which aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of European Commission funded anti-trafficking projects (Walby, Towers, et al. 2016).
In 2016, I became the Lead for the Training and Learning strand of the N8 Policing Research Partnership. Working closely with policing and academic colleagues I developed and delivered a range of bespoke events aiming to facilitate knowledge transfer between the academy and policing and vice versa. At this time, discussion about making policing a "profession" inline with nursing and social work by introducing the requirement for all police officers to hold an undergraduate degree was peaking (Simmill-Binnings and Towers 2017); however, it became increasingly clear that police staff, specifically analysts were excluded from this agenda, despite both the role they play and developing “big data policing” agendas. So, along with the N8 PRP Data Analytics strand (Leeds), we constructed a 10-month programme of CPD activity for police (and other public sector) analysts and ran two cohorts with 65 analysts over 2018 and 2019, exploring the position of analysts within the police and how they might upskill in order to take a central role in evidence-informed policing (for which I was awarded the IALEIA Award for Excellence in Analysis in 2020).
My interest in the construction and use of data and in the use of such to impact policing decisions are combined in my teaching interests as the Lead on Dissertation and EBP Project modules at UG and PGT levels and as the Lead on Advanced Research Skills modules. In particular I am interested in pedagogies of research. I am currently leading on two projects that pick up on these interests: (1) Researching Policing - which is capturing data from students who are currently transitioning to independent researchers in their Dissertation / EBP Project modules - the research aims to capture and explicate student narratives about this journey from beginning to completion and will be used as a chapter in an edited book about "Researching Policing". (2) Participation - which is capturing student and staff understanding and experiences of student participation in formal teaching spaces (physical and online) through the use of focus groups. This pedagogic research is supported by my positions as: LCAPS Lead for Teaching and Learning; School of Justice Studies Teaching and Learning Coordinator; and Faculty Education Committee member.
I am also involved in two further on-going projects. First, as a CI on the RCUK-funded Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network (https://www.vamhn.co.uk/) , working on the measurement strand. Second, with colleagues from LCAPS looking at aspects of operational policing during the 2020 covid-19 pandemic. We have collected survey data from frontline police officers in the UK through June 2020 and are now analysing this data.
I currently supervise five PGRs, all of whom in some way are exploring the impact of the construction of data on the knowledge-base and examining what happens to that knowledge-base if alternative methods are used to construct the data that underpin it, focused on domestic violence, rape, and big data in crime prevention. I have one completion as a PGR supervisor, on a project which explored the measurement of repeat domestic violence and abuse in police data.
2020, LJMU, United Kingdom, Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice
2013, Lancaster University, UK, PhD Applied Social Statistics
2009, Lancaster University, UK, MRes Applied Social Statistics
2008, Lancaster University, UK, BA (Hons) Global Politics
1997, Myerscough College, UK, HND Ecology and Conservation Management
1994, Charlotte Mason College, UK, DipHE (primary education)
Honorary Senior Lecturer, Violence and Society Centre, City, University of London, 2019 - present
Senior Lecturer in Policing Studies, Liverpool Centre for Policing, Liverpool John Moores, 2018 - present
Lecturer Sociology and Quantitative Methods (with special reference to gender), Sociology, Lancaster University, 2016 - 2018
Senior Research Associate, Sociology, Lancaster University, 2013 - 2016
Towers J. 2015. Making the links between economic inequality and intimate partner violence Safe - The Domestic Abuse Quarterly, 53 :22-25
Walby S, Towers J. 2012. Measuring the impact of cuts in public expenditure on the provision of services to prevent violence against women and girls Safe - The Domestic Abuse Quarterly,
Simmill-Binning CA, Towers JS. 2017. Education, Training and Learning in Policing in England and Wales
Walby S, Towers J, Francis BJ, Shire K, Kelly L, Apitzsch B, Armstrong JE, Balderston S, Fish AR, Hardaker C, Kirby S, May-Chahal CA, Palmer CE. 2016. Study on comprehensive policy review of anti-trafficking projects funded by the European Commission
Walby S, Apitzsch B, Armstrong JE, Balderston S, Szmagalska-Follis K, Francis BJ, Kelly L, May-Chahal CA, Rashid A, Shire K, Towers J, Tunte M. 2016. Study on the gender dimension of trafficking in human beings
Walby S, Olive P, Towers J, Francis B, Strid S, Krizsán A, Lombardo E, May-Chahal C, Franzway S, Sugarman D, Agarwal B. 2013. Overview of the worldwide best practices for rape prevention and for assisting women victims of rape
Towers J, Walby S. 2012. Measuring the impact of cuts in public expenditure on the provision of services to prevent violence against women
Walby S, Towers J, Balderston S, Corradi C, Francis BJ, Heiskanen M, Helweg-Larsen K, Mergaert L, Olive P, Palmer CE, Stockl H, Strid S. 2017. The concept and measurement of violence against women and men Policy Press 9781447332633 DOI
Walby S, Olive P, Towers J, Francis B, Strid S, Krizsan A, Lombardo E, May-Chahal C, Franzway S, Sugarman D, Aganwal B, Armstrong J. 2015. Stopping rape Policy Press 9781447322092 DOI
Walby S, Towers J, Francis B. 2014. The decline in the rate of domestic violence has stopped
Towers J. Discussion on the paper by Hand (Statistical Challenges of Administrative and Transaction Data) Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A, 181 :578-605 Author Url
Towers J. Economic Inequality and Intimate Partner Violence against Women
Amazing Teacher Award (Longlisted), Liverpool John Moores Students Union. 2021
Excellence in Analysis, The International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts, https://www.ialeia.org/. 2020
Other Professional Activity:
External Examiner for UCL Professional Policing degree. 2021
PI - Curriculum Enhancement Internship: Curriculum Seed Fund project "Understandings and Perceptions of Inclusive Practices for In-class Participation in Physical and Online Learning Spaces". 2021
APSS Faculty Education Committee member. 2021
School of Justice Studies Teaching and Learning Coordinator. 2021
Member N8 Policing Research Partnership Data Specialists in Policing CPD Advisory Group. 2020
Member Northern Analysts Group (NAG). 2020
External Validator for the MSc in Criminal Intelligence Analysis, UCLAN. 2018
Co-ordinator (with N8 PRP Data Analytics) 2018 and 2019 Data Specialists in Policing CPD Programme. 2018
Member Femicide Research Network. 2018
External PGR Supervision - completed students:
Lancaster University, PhD, Measuring the repetition of domestic violence and abuse in police data. 2021
Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice. 2020
British Academy Funded Older Victims of Crime: Report to Court Study, Durham University, Steering Group Member. 2020
ESRC-Funded Domestic Homicide Reviews Study, UCLAN, Advisory Board Member. 2019
Violence and Society Centre, City University, Member. 2019
Violence and Society Centre, Lancaster University, Associate Director. 2017
N8 Policing Research Partnership Steering Committee, N8 Policing Research Partnership, Strand Lead - Training and Learning, https://n8prp.org.uk/training-and-learning/. 2016
Research Grants Awarded:
RCUK, Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network, Dr Oram, King's College London; Prof Louise Howard, King's College London; Prof Walby, City University; Dr Thiara, University of Warwick; Dr Harris, King's College London; Prof Danezis, University College London; Dr Sweeney, St George's University of London; Dr Fazel, University of Oxford; Dr Hewitt, University of Oxford, Grant value (£): 999,963.60, Duration of research project: 48 months. 2018
Fellow, Higher Education Academy.