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.
My current research project is looking at the construction and use of data in the “evidence-informed policing” agenda.
This research agenda began back in 2013 with a graph published by the Office of 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 branched out and 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).
Alongside this measurement work, in 2016 I became the Lead for the Training and Learning strand of the N8 Policing Research Partnership. Working closely with policing colleagues and with my interest in the construction and use of data, I began to take an interest in the “evidence-based / evidence-informed policing” agenda, including the role of police (and more widely public sector) analysts, who appeared to be somewhat neglected by the incoming PEQF (Simmill-Binnings and Towers 2017) and the developing “big data policing” agendas. 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.
The combination of my interest in the construction of data, the measurement research and working with the N8 PRP has brought me to my main, current research interest, of which there are two stages: 1) the construction and use of data in the “evidence-informed policing” agenda and 2) the role of analysts in this agenda. The research is in the early stages. I hope to have some initial findings by summer 2021.
I am also involved in two further on-going projects. First, as a CI on the RCUK-funded Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network, working on the measurement strand. Second, with colleagues from LCP 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. We expect to have initial findings by the end of the year (2020).
I also supervise six 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.
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)
Hoorary 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. 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. 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
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
Walby S, Towers J, Francis B. 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
Engagement & Impact
Other Professional Activity:
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
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
Excellence in Analysis, The International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts, https://www.ialeia.org/. 2020
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.
Graduate Statistician, Royal Statistical Society.
Membership of professional bodies:
Graduate Statistician, Royal Statistical Society.
Member, British Society of Criminology.
Member, International Association of Law Enforcement Analysts.