I returned to the University as Professor of Criminology and Research Methods in Summer 2017, having previously worked at the University of Warwick where I was Director of the Warwick Q-Step centre. I have always been a bit of a 'jobbing researcher' with wide ranging interests in the application of advanced quantitative methods across the Social Sciences. Currently my interests in Criminology include prison effects, the spatial patterning of crime and perceptions of crime, and the role of neighbourhood context. In methodology I am particularly interested in new developments in multilevel modelling, bayesian statistics, and survey methodology. I have also retained an interest in the public understanding of science, an area of work I got into before starting my PhD.
I am secretary of the Royal Statistical Society Social Statistics Committee (since 2015), sit on the editorial board of the British Journal of Criminology and the advisory board of the National Centre for Research Methods, and am director of the Surrey Crime Research Lab.
The main areas of research that I am currently involved in cover areas of Criminology and Survey Methods. In Criminology I have been particularly interested in prison effects, as well as the role of neighbourhood context in shaping residents' experiences. I am also increasingly interested in the spatial patterning of crime and disorder. In Survey Methodology my research has tended to focus on the role of interviewer effects.
This work explores the impact of prison experience on reoffending and employment amongst a cohort of nearly 4,000 prisoners using survey data from the Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction (SPCR) survey linked to the Police National Computer. This includes the application of multilevel models to adjust for prison context, and longitudinal models to examine changes in prisoner experience and attitudes over time.
Key findings from this work can be found in:
McCarthy, D., and Brunton-Smith, I. (2018) 'The effect of penal legitimacy on prisoners' post-release desistance'. Crime and Delinquency, 64 (7): 917-938.
Brunton-Smith, I., and McCarthy, D. (2017) ‘The effects of prisoner attachment to family on re-entry outcomes: A longitudinal assessment’. British Journal of Criminology. 57 (2): 463-482.
Brunton-Smith, I., and McCarthy, D. (2016) ‘Prison legitimacy and procedural fairness: the view from prisoners across England and Wales’. Justice Quarterly. 33(6): 1029-1054.
Brunton-Smith, I., and Hopkins, K. (2014) 'The impact of experience in prison on the employment status of prisoners after release: Findings from the first 3 waves of Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction (SPCR)' Report for Ministry of Justice.
Hopkins, K., and Brunton-Smith, I. (2014) 'Prisoners' experience of prison and outcomes on release: Results from Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction (SPCR)' Report for Ministry of Justice.
Brunton-Smith, I., and Hopkins, K. (2013) 'The factors associated with reconviction following release from prison: Findings from the first 3 waves of Surveying Prisoner Crime Reduction (SPCR)' Report for Ministry of Justice.
I am particularly interested in the potential impact that neighbourhood context has in shaping local residents perceptions. This has involved the application of multilevel models to crime survey data in order to identify the contribution of neighbourhood context, and combining this with contextual information from the census of England and Wales.
Key findings from this work can be found in:
Brunton-Smith, I., Sturgis, P., and Leckie, G. (2018) ‘How collective is collective efficacy? The importance of consensus in judgments about community cohesion and willingness to intervene’. Criminology
Brunton-Smith, I., Sutherland, A., and Jackson, J. (2014) 'Bridging structure and perception; On the social ecology of beliefs and worries about neighbourhood violence in London'. British Journal of Criminology. 54 (4): 503-526.
Sturgis, P., Brunton-Smith, I., Jackson, J., and Kuha, J. (2014) 'Ethnic diversity and the social cohesion of neighbourhoods in London'. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37 (8): 1286-1309.
Sutherland, A., Brunton-Smith., I., and Jackson, J. (2013) 'Collective efficacy, deprivation and violence in London'. British Journal of Criminology, 53 (6): 1050-1074.
Brunton-Smith, I., and Sturgis, P. (2011) 'Do Neighborhoods Generate Fear of Crime?: An Empirical Test Using the British Crime Survey'. Criminology, 49 (2): 331-369.
My research within the field of survey methodology focuses specifically on the potential contribution that interviewers make to estimates of measurement error in face to face surveys. This is examined with the application of cross-classified multilevel models with a complex error structure to face to face survey data. I have also been involved in work looking at the potential for interviewer observation data collected during the interview to adjust survey estimates for nonresponse bias, as well as the potential for panel conditioning effects in longitudinal surveys. More recently I have been applying multiple imputation models to survey data with high attrition, including data with a multilevel structure.
Key findings from this work can be found in:
Brunton-Smith, I., Sturgis, P., and Leckie, G. (2017) ‘Detecting and understanding interviewer effects on survey data by using a cross-classified mixed effects location-scale model’. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A. 180 (2): 551-568.
Sturgis, P., Williams, J., Brunton-Smith, I., and Moore, J. (2017) ‘Fieldwork effort, response rate and the distribution of survey outcomes: a multi-level meta-analysis’. Public Opinion Quarterly. 81 (2): 5223-542.
Brunton-Smith, I., and Tarling, R. (2017) ‘Harnessing paradata and multilevel multiple imputation when analysing longitudinal survey data’. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 20 (6): 709-720.
Brunton-Smith, I., Sturgis, P., and Williams, J. (2012) ‘Is success on the doorstep correlated with the magnitude of the interviewer design effect?’ Public Opinion Quarterly, 76 (2): 265-286.
I am currently Director of Postgraduate Taught Degrees and Programme Leader for the MSc in Social Research Methods. This year I have been making extensive changes to the Social Research Methods degree and I am really excited with the results. From October 2018 we are changing the delivery of our advanced research methods modules, moving from semester-long to an intensive short course structure. This has allowed us to introduce a number of new modules (including Agent Based Modelling, Social Network Analysis, Advanced Qualitative Data Analysis, and Multilevel Modelling) and is the perfect way for students to learn advanced topics. If you would like to find out more about the new MSc, please feel free to get in touch.
- Social Data Analytics (MSc)
- Statistical Modelling (MSc Short Course)
- Multilevel Modelling (MSc Short Course)
A few years ago I developed an online resource (with Karen Bullock and Rob Meadows) to assist students learning quantitative methods for the first time. If you would like to play around with the resources, you can register for free here.
Postgraduate research supervision
I would be very interested to hear from potential PhD students interested in the use of quantitative methods to address important social questions, as well as students interested in aspects of survey methodology.
I currently supervise the following students:
Megan Georgiou (from October 2018)
Daniel Ennis (with Mathematics, from October 2018)
Nicola Spencer Godfrey
Allum, N., Besley, J., Gomez, L., and Brunton-Smith, I. (2018) 'Disparities in science literacy'. Science, 360 (6391), 861-862.
This was the first detailed study to look at disparities in science knowledge between adults from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. We found that people from black and Hispanic backgrounds were less able to answer questions about scientific facts and processes compared to white Americans. The study, published in Science (!), looked at potential reasons behind the disparity, including differences in basic literacy skills, attitudes to science (some minority groups expressed less trust and confidence in science), demographic factors such as education, gender, where people live and religion. After adjusting for all of these factors, a persistent science literacy gap remains, which could be related to the difference in the quality of education experienced day to day and year over year by underserved groups. This suggests the quantity and quality of science education needs to be looked at and we may also need training and public awareness campaigns to help scientists, teachers and employers to be more sensitive to the subtle manifestations of bias.
Brunton-Smith, I., Sturgis, P., and Leckie, G. (2018) ‘How collective is collective efficacy? The importance of consensus in judgments about community cohesion and willingness to intervene’. Criminology.
In this paper we shift the focus of research on collective efficacy away from variations in average levels of collective efficacy between neighbourhoods to also consider how much people agree about these judgments. To do this, we extend a basic multilevel model to also include a neighbourhood-level random effect associated with the individual residual (see e.g. Hedeker et al, 2008). Our results show that neighbourhoods in London differ, not just in their average levels of collective efficacy but also in the extent to which residents agree with one another in their assessments. And this variation matters, with higher levels of criminal victimization, worry about crime, and risk avoidance behaviour in areas where collective efficacy consensus is low.