18 October 2016

Calling all PhD students – share a summary of your research with the Research Map

Siân Lewis (Loughborough University) and Divya Sukumar (University of Warwick) tell us about their doctoral research and why they have shared it with the Research Map.

Siân's research is about perceptions and experiences of sexual harassment on the London Underground Network.

Tell us about your research project and why you chose it?
My research focuses on understanding and challenging sexual harassment on the London Underground network, with the overarching objective of ensuring public space as an equal and safe arena for women.

Transport exists as an intermediary part of life, between the perceived danger of the streets and relative safety of home. Yet recent research has shown that transport is often perceived as a place of vulnerability, with 10% of women experiencing unwanted sexual attention on the Underground, but only 1 in 10 reporting it.  (Gekoski A, Gray JM, Horvath MAH, Edwards S, Emirali A and Adler JR (Feb 2015) 'What Works' in Reducing Sexual Harassment and Sexual Offences on Public Transport Nationally and Internationally: A Rapid Evidence Assessment, Middlesex University).

'Low-level' incidents of sexual harassment are widely normalised in society and are seen as a part of everyday life. Yet the social and psychological impact that they have are significant and women's support organisations have long since recognised the consequences of 'low level' sexual harassment as a form of gendered violence due to its impact on women's status, choices and wellbeing in society.  In recent years, this sentiment has been increasingly adopted by various transport organisations, including British Transport Police (BTP) and Transport for London (TfL).  The culture of normalisation links directly to under-reporting, as often people don't realise it's something that they can report, and that it will be taken seriously by the police.

However, there has been an increase in reporting after initiatives such as Project Guardian and Report it to Stop it, showing that a recognition and awareness of sexual harassment as 'not ok' can have a positive impact.  

Alongside an interest in the impact of sexual harassment on victims, I became aware of studies exposing how transport is often viewed by women as a space of vulnerability and how a fear of sexual assault can often dictate travel patterns. Studies also show London, and The Tube, as being places where sexual harassment is encountered. The combination of this, and my academic interests (urban space, social interactions, gender studies) led me to focus on sexual harassment on the Underground.  I will be using extensive observations on the Underground and interviews with women who have experienced sexual harassment, both via snowball sampling and through British Transport Police for a more victim centred approach and understanding towards harassment.

This is also an issue that is at the top of the agenda for British Transport Police who have been very supportive of this research project.  By contributing to academic knowledge in this area I hope to confront attitudes of acceptance and normalisation, and therefore, participate in challenging and reducing sexual harassment. 

This poster was exhibited at the annual British Society of Criminology conference, for which I was awarded first prize.

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How did you hear about the Research Map?
As a member of Loughborough University Police Research Group, I was encouraged early on in my PhD process to submit my project to the Research Map. I also attended the East Midlands Police and Academic Collaboration (EMPAC) launch event, and they actively encouraged all researchers to submit their work to the Map, describing it as a fantastic platform where academia and policing are being brought together.

Why did you share a summary of your research with the Map?
After following the Policing Research Group's advice and exploring the Map further, it seemed like a great opportunity to add my research (which took very little effort using the online form).  The Research Map is a fantastic tool for any researcher in the field of policing. It supports the dissemination of research throughout the whole process, provides networking opportunities that help you to get in touch with people who are working in a similar area and provides an extensive overview of on-going research. There is nothing to lose and much to gain by sharing a summary of your research!

Divya's research is about understanding the broader implications of strategic disclosure of evidence in police interviews with suspects.

Tell us about your research project and why you chose it?
My PhD research looks at the implications of presenting evidence to suspects in different ways before and during the police interview. For instance, the police may choose to hold back their evidence until they have got a full account from the suspect so that they can check the truthfulness of the suspect's story with the evidence, as psychologists recommend. In contrast, the police may disclose their evidence to the suspect's legal representative before the interview, as lawyers prefer, to help the legal representative advise the suspect about the case.

I chose this topic because psychologists and lawyers have conflicting perspectives on when the police should disclose their evidence during a suspect interview and I (with my supervisors, Dr Kimberley Wade and Professor Jacqueline Hodgson) wanted to reconcile psychologists' and lawyers' arguments and research to inform police practice.  To this end, we conduct field observations of police disclosure practices, surveys of lawyers and police, and psychological experiments. Like many real-world issues, police disclosure of evidence transcends disciplines. Thus, my research takes an interdisciplinary approach, involving both psychological and legal research methods, to examine how the amount and timing of evidence disclosure impacts the lawyer's ability to advise the accused and the police's ability to carry out an effective investigation.

How did you hear about the Research Map?  
I found out about the Research Map from members of the College of Policing who attended the Society of Evidence Based Policing event at the University of Warwick.  I decided to include my PhD project on the Research Map because it is a great way to share on-going research with academics and practitioners interested in similar policing issues. I am particularly keen to disseminate the findings to both academics and practitioners and so, when the research is complete I will provide my final reports and details of journal articles to the National Police Library so that they can be added to the online catalogue which provides an ideal 'shop window'. I would encourage researchers to share summaries of their projects on the Map as it can present opportunities for collaborations, both with other academics and police forces, by making it visible to a wide audience.  It also allows researchers to send quick links to a dedicated project summary page which helps with informing people about my research project.

Have you already published or presented any of your research findings?
So far, we have published three journal articles and presented our research findings at police conferences and workshops, such as the Midlands' regional Society for Evidence Based Policing (SEBP) conference, co-hosted by the Centre for Operational Police Research at the University of Warwick.

Sukumar, D., Hodgson, J. S., & Wade, K. A. (in press). Behind closed doors: Live observations of current police station disclosure practices and lawyer-client consultations. Criminal Law Review.

Sukumar, D., Wade, K. A, & Hodgson, J. S. (2016). Strategic disclosure of evidence: Perspectives from psychology and lawPsychology, Public Policy, and Law, 22, 306–313.

Sukumar, D., Hodgson, J. S., & Wade, K. A. (2016). How the timing of police evidence disclosure impacts custodial legal advice.International Journal of Evidence & Proof, 20, 200–216.


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