Research Associate For Data Science & Ethics In The Criminal Justice System

Alan Turing Institute London United Kingdom
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Company Description

There has never been a more significant time to work in data science and AI. There is recognition of the importance of these technologies to our economic and social future: the so-called fourth industrial revolution. The technical challenge of keeping our data secure and private has grown in its urgency and importance. At the same time, voices from academia, industry, and government are coming together to debate how these technologies should be governed and managed.

The Alan Turing Institute, as the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, plays an important part in driving forward advances in these technologies in order to change the world for the better.

The Institute is named in honour of Alan Turing, whose pioneering work in theoretical and applied mathematics, engineering and computing is considered to have laid the foundations for modern-day data science and artificial intelligence. The Institute’s goals are to undertake world-class research, apply its research to real-world problems, driving economic impact and societal good, lead the training of a new generation of scientists, and shape the public conversation around data and algorithms.

After launching in 2015 with government funding from EPSRC and five founding universities, the Institute has grown an extensive network of university partners from across the UK and launched a number of major partnerships with industry, public and third sector. Today it is home to more than 500 researchers, a rapidly growing team of in house research software engineers and data scientists and a business team.



The Public Policy research programme works alongside policy-makers to explore how data-driven public service provision and policy innovation might help to solve long running societal problems. We also work hand-in-hand with public sector organisations and citizens to develop practice-based ethical standards for the responsible development and use of data science and AI. Our dynamic group has co-produced—with the Office for AI and the Government Digital Service—the UK Government’s official public sector guide for designing and implementing ethical and safe AI. We have also co-authored—with the Information Commissioner’s Office—the first guidance ever released by a UK regulator on explaining AI-assisted decisions.

In addition to our work with government and regulators, we carry out interdisciplinary academic research in the area of AI ethics and governance as well as AI and society. Our research projects rely entirely on public funding, and they include a review of the ethics of machine learning (ML) in children’s social care; an exploration of the relationship of notions of AI, human agency, privacy and trust in intercultural and global contexts; an investigation into how to build grassroots data rights charters through deliberative democracy; an examination of the role of responsible data management in criminal justice applications of AI; and an analysis of the interpretability needs of AI systems in the financial services sector.


Digital technologies, data science, and artificial intelligence have diverse and far-reaching implications for the lives of individuals and the functioning of communities and societies. These technologies promise myriad benefits, and public authorities are beginning to take notice. Faced with increasing budget cuts, rising service demands, and the novel challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, public authorities are looking to algorithmic systems to help them deliver what they see as more objective, efficient, and accessible services.

One of the most controversial domains for the application of such technologies is the criminal justice system. By now, the ethical issues and challenges associated with the use of data-driven technologies in criminal justice are well known (e.g. algorithmic decision support systems for sentencing or probation decisions; facial recognition technology). As governments begin to grapple with these challenges and explore the full scale of such technologies in practice, the Public Policy programme of The Alan Turing Institute is helping to build secure and inclusive ethical foundations while investigating the limitations of using algorithmic systems in a criminal justice context.

In order to help public authorities benefit from the growing range of data-driven technologies, the Public Policy programme is carrying out a range of research projects to assess the modernisation of the criminal justice system and the ethical challenges and requirements that arise. The primary aim of the research project is to generate new actionable insights and recommendations that promote a culture of responsible research and innovation within the criminal justice system.


The Alan Turing Institute is recruiting a full-time postdoctoral researcher to work as part of the Public Policy programme.

Depending on her or his academic training, the researcher will focus either on (1) researching the social and ethical implications of the design, development, and deployment of data-driven technologies in the criminal justice system (e.g. developing tools, practices, and frameworks for responsible research and innovation), or (2) researching the technical dimensions of the responsible design and development of algorithmic systems in the criminal justice system (e.g. developing tools and practices for fairness-aware model design or explainable and interpretable algorithmic models).

The researcher will work with the Public Policy programme, using multidisciplinary research methods to investigate key questions, such as:

  • When is the use of algorithmic systems in a criminal justice context morally permissible and ethically justifiable? What are the ethical limits of algorithm-human interaction?
  • How, by whom, and when should algorithmic systems be used in order to ensure that they do not create unnecessary harms (e.g. algorithmic aversion or human deskilling, discriminatory impact), while promoting sustainable outcomes (e.g. fair access to justice)?
  • What kind of benefits could algorithmic systems potentially contribute in a criminal justice context and how can they be secured (e.g. best practices for information governance)?
  • How might technical and non-technical tools and processes that promote practices of responsible research and innovation be used in criminal justice systems to produce sustainable outcomes with demonstrable social benefit?

Research should translate into concrete frameworks, actionable policy proposals, recommendations for regulation, policy measures, and guidelines for best practice aimed at ensuring an ethically sound use of algorithmic systems in the criminal justice sector.

The successful candidate will play an important role in shaping and conducting the Public Policy programme’s research into digital ethics in the criminal justice sector, working closely with academics and policy-makers in an interdisciplinary, dynamic and collaborative environment.


The core responsibilities of the Research Associate are as follows:

  • Work with the Public Policy programme’s Ethics Theme Lead and Ethics Fellows to develop and/or support research into the ethics of using algorithmic systems in a criminal justice context. The research should ultimately contribute actionable insights to ensure the ethical design, development, and deployment of data-driven technologies and algorithmic systems.
  • Serve as a key link between the Turing’s academic community and the Institute’s external partners in the policy, ethics, and criminal justice space.
  • Externally, the Research Associate will build and maintain relationships with policy-makers as part of the Public Policy programme’s external engagement strategy.
  • Internally, the Associate will work collaboratively to pursue the research agenda described above, will identify relevant academics from the Turing community to collaborate with where relevant, and will develop work plans to ensure timely delivery of objectives.
  • Participate in knowledge exchange activities as appropriate. This may include:
  • Preparing research outputs that are tailored to a diverse audience, ranging from policy-makers to researchers, civil society and the general public.
  • Working with the Turing’s Communications team to ensure that the Turing’s research is effectively promoted in the mainstream media.
  • Working in close coordination with other members of the public policy programme to maximise the programme’s influence on ongoing policy debates.
  • Representing the Turing at external conferences and events.



  • In line with the requirements of the role (see above section), the candidate should have either (1) a PhD or equivalent experience in the area of science and technology studies, digital ethics, or public policy, or (2) a PhD or equivalent experience in either a natural, computer or social science field with experience in using computer programming and/or advanced statistical or numerical methods. In both instances, the candidate should have demonstrable experience in relevant formal methods (e.g. statistical learning theory) and be interested in conducting interdisciplinary research (i.e. working with qualitative and quantitative research methods to study complex socio-economic and/or policy issues).
  • Firm understanding of the ethical challenges of using digital technologies in the criminal justice system.
  • Strong methodological and theoretical foundations and experience working at the intersection of technology and society.
  • A proven ability to communicate research and advocate policy at multiple levels and to diverse audiences.
  • Experience pursuing independent research aimed at publication including desk-based literature review, content analysis and summary, and compiling bibliographic material;
  • A strong record of academic publications appropriate to career stage, which may include journal articles, book chapters, policy reports, and white papers.
  • A demonstrable interest in the mission of The Alan Turing Institute and in exploring the real-world impact of cutting-edge technology, in particular in criminal justice.


  • Technical skills in fairness-aware design and explainable AI.
  • Experience in a policy environment, such as international organisations, government agencies, think tanks, or learned societies; or experience in technology companies or consultancies.
  • Demonstrable understanding of or experience with methods for technical assurance (e.g. safety standards) and information governance.

Other information


If you are interested in this opportunity, please click the apply button below. You will need to register on the applicant portal and complete the application form including your CV; covering letter that outlines how you meet the job specifications; a list of publications as well as a sample piece of writing (a journal article, conference proceeding, book chapter, or equivalent); and contact details for two referees.

If you have questions about the role or would like to apply using a different format, please contact them on 020 3862 3575 or email



This full-time post is offered on a fixed-term basis for a period of two years. The annual salary for this post is £35,000 to £41,000 (dependent on skills and experience) plus excellent benefits, including flexible working and family friendly policies,

This job description is written at a specific time and is subject to change as the demands of the Institute and the role develop. The role requires flexibility and adaptability and the post holder needs to be aware that they may be asked to perform tasks and be given responsibilities not detailed in this job description.


The Alan Turing Institute is committed to creating an environment where diversity is valued and everyone is treated fairly. In accordance with the Equality Act, we welcome applications from anyone who meets the specific criteria of the post regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender reassignment, marital and civil partnership status, pregnancy, religion or belief or sexual orientation. Reasonable adjustments to the interview process can also be made for any candidates with a disability.

Please note all offers of employment are subject to continuous eligibility to work in the UK and satisfactory pre-employment security screening which includes a DBS Check.

Full details on the pre-employment screening process can be requested from