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Research Assistant in Criminology


Location:  Guildford
Salary:  £9,215 to £10,674 per annum
Fixed Term
Post Type:  Part Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours BST on Friday 30 September 2022
Reference:  060722

Job Summary & Purpose:

  1. Work with criminology researchers to explore and develop a new understanding of how online privacy and safety and can be compromised during life transitions.
  1. Work with other researchers on the project to facilitate reproducible research and public engagement.
  2. Contribute to participative research engagement events and activities with stakeholders.
  3. Meet on a weekly basis with project staff and attend project meetings and present results at other sites as required.
  4. Publish and present research in high-quality international journals and conferences.
  5. Pro-actively organise and manage own time and research-related activities.
  6. Report orally and prepare papers reporting progress and delivery of project outcomes and be able to communicate at both technical and high-level for example with project research partners.
  7. Perform any other duties associated with the project, as deemed appropriate to the grade by the Principal Investigator. 
  8. Promote the research and activities of the project in national and international forums as well as in cohort activities related to the REPHRAIN National Research Centre on Privacy, Harm Reduction and Adversarial Influence Online

Main Responsibilities / Activities

Working with the project investigators and other researchers, develop a research agenda for the AP4L, identifying important online safety and privacy problems experienced by citizens during life transitions and developing innovative privacy-sensitive solutions to address these problems.

Meet on a weekly basis with project staff, either on campus or remotely

Attend project meetings and present results at other sites as required

Give oral and written reports on project progress and outcomes. Be able to report at both a technical low-level and conceptual high-level to a range of audiences including the public and industry

Continually update knowledge and develop skills

Carry out routine administrative tasks associated with the research project, for example risk assessment of research tasks, organisation of project meetings and documentation. This will entail planning own day-to-day research activity within the framework of the agreed programme, dealing with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines and implementing procedures required to ensure accurate and timely delivery.

Person Specification

The post holder must have:

PhD gained or near completion in criminology (or a related subject).

OR Equivalent professional experience

Experience in qualitative interviewing and analysis.

Ability to express ideas and disseminate findings effectively and excellent writing skills.

Ability to work independently as well as co-operate with other members of the research team, with strong organisational and time management skills

The post holder would ideally have:

An interest in issues relating to vulnerability, online privacy and surveillance studies

A track record in disseminating research and communicating to difference audiences.

A track record of publishing academic papers is desirable

Relationship and Contacts

Direct responsibility to Principal Investigator Prof. Nishanth Sastry.

Informal enquiries are welcome and should be directed to Dr Michael McGuire or Dr Francesca Menichelli  

Background Information to Post

This post is part of an EPSRC project AP4L: Adaptive PETs to Protect & emPower People during Life Transitions, funded through the Protecting Citizens Online Call 2. The aim of this project is to undertake research in online privacy & vulnerability challenges that people face when going through major life transitions such as relationship breakdowns; LBGT+ transitions or transitioning gender; entering/leaving employment in sensitive sectors such as the Armed Forces; and developing a serious illness or becoming terminally ill.  (More details in the summary given at the end of this section)

The postholder will be responsible for conducting and analysing qualitative interviews to explore the privacy needs of citizens change during significant life transitions and how institutions can support them. 

The postholder will be part of a cohort of researchers working with the REPHRAIN National Research Centre on Privacy, Harm Reduction and Adversarial Influence Online. A key aspect of the project is working closely with 26 core partners spanning legal enforcement agencies (e.g., Surrey Police), tech companies (e.g., Facebook, IBM), support networks (e.g., LGBT Foundation, Revenge Porn Helpline, Macmillans Cancer Care), financial agencies (Mastercard, Lloyd’s) and regulators such as Ofcom. A six-part radio series has been commissioned by the BBC for disseminating the key project messages.

Relevant Research Environment in the Department

The postholder will be based in the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey and will be a member of the Surrey Centre for Criminology.    


 Project Summary: AP4L: Adaptive PETs to Protect & emPower People during Life Transitions 

AP4L is a 3-year program of interdisciplinary research, centring on the online privacy & vulnerability challenges that people face when going through major life transitions. Our goal is to develop privacy-by-design technologies to protect & empower people during these transitions. Our work is driven by a narrative that will be familiar to most people. Life often "just happens", leading people to overlook their core privacy and online safety needs. For instance, somebody undergoing cancer treatment may be less likely to finesse their privacy setting on social media when discussing the topic. Similarly, an individual undergoing gender transition may be unaware of how their online activities in the past may shape the treatment into the future. This project will build the scientific and theoretical foundations to explore these challenges, as well as design and evaluate three core innovations that will address the identified challenges. AP4L will introduce a step-change, making online safety and privacy as painless and seamless as possible during life transitions

 To ensure a breadth of understanding, we will apply these concepts to four very different transitions through a series of carefully designed co-creation activities, devised as part of a stakeholder workshop held in Oct'21. These are relationship breakdowns; LBGT+ transitions or transitioning gender; entering/ leaving employment in the Armed Forces; and developing a serious illness or becoming terminally ill. Such transitions can significantly change privacy considerations in unanticipated or counter-intuitive ways. For example, previously enabled location-sharing with a partner may lead to stalking after a breakup; 'coming out' may need careful management across diverse audiences (e.g - friends, grandparents) on social media.

 We will study these transitions, following a creative security approach, bringing together interdisciplinary expertise in Computer Science, Law, Business, Psychology and Criminology.

 We will systematise this knowledge, and develop fundamental models of the nature of transitions and their interplay with online lives. These models will inform the development of a suite of technologies and solutions that will help people navigate significant life transitions through adaptive, personalised privacy-enhanced interventions that meet the needs of each individual and bolster their resilience, autonomy, competence, and connection. The suite will comprise:

 (1) "Risk Playgrounds", which will build resilience by helping users to explore potentially risky interactions of life transitions with privacy settings across their digital footprint in safe ways

 (2) "Transition Guardians", which will provide real-time protection for users during life transitions.

 (3) "Security Bubbles", which will promote connection by bringing people together who can help each other (or who need to work together) during one person's life transition, whilst providing additional guarantees to safeguard everyone involved.

 In achieving this vision, and as evidenced by £686K of in-kind contributions, we will work with 26 core partners spanning legal enforcement agencies (e.g., Surrey Police), tech companies (e.g., Facebook, IBM), support networks (e.g., LGBT Foundation, Revenge Porn Helpline) and associated organisations (e.g., Ofcom, Mastercard, BBC). Impact will be delivered through various activities including a specially commissioned BBC series on online life transitions to share knowledge with the public; use of the outputs of our projects by companies & social platforms (e.g., by incorporating into their products, & by designing their products to take into consideration the findings of our project) & targeted workshops to enable knowledge exchange with partners & stakeholders.

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For more information and to apply online, please download the further details and click on the 'apply online' button above.
In return we offer a generous pension, relocation assistance where appropriate , flexible working options including job share and blended home/campus working locations (dependent on work duties), access to world-class leisure facilities on campus, a range of travel schemes and supportive family friendly benefits including an excellent on-site nursery.

Click here to find out more about the benefits we offer to support you.

The University of Surrey is committed to providing an inclusive environment that offers equal opportunities for all.  We place great value on diversity and are seeking to increase the diversity within our community.  Therefore we particularly encourage applications from under-represented groups, such as people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and people with disabilities.






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