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Improving the Sustainability of Forensic Consumables: A case study approach to support the design and implementation of environmentally friendly consumables for forensic packaging


   School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

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  Dr Paul Smith , Dr Jodie Coulston, Dr Helen Louise McGonigal  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a fees-only, three-year PhD to commence in October 2022. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and will be supervised by Dr Paul Smith, Dr Jodie Coulston, Dr Helen McGonigal and with an external consultant and mentor, Dr Carolyn Lovell (FCN).

Candidates applying for this project will compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years. Bursary recipients will also receive a £2,000 research allowance for project costs/ consumables/ conference travel.

This PhD results from a national collaboration between the University of Portsmouth’s Forensic Innovation Partnership (FIP), Hampshire Constabulary Scientific Services Department, and the National Police Chief Council, Forensic Capability Network (FCN). It builds on a joint study reviewing the current sustainability of forensic practice in the UK, focusing on forensic consumables and associated practice in crime scene processing by lead supervisor, Dr Paul Smith.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Working directly with forensic practitioners and associated agents at locations across the UK and internationally, gaining unique access to the forensic processes and related data;
  • Working with the UK’s Forensic Capability Network (FCN) on a project of national importance and feeding into the national forensic research agenda, benefitting from the knowledge and networks of the extended supervisory and mentoring teams.
  • Acquiring enhanced doctoral programme training from the institutions involved and having the opportunity to teach at the University of Portsmouth and present your findings at national research symposia, thus gaining research and teaching experience in different settings.

Project description

A high percentage of the packaging and consumables used for forensic evidence recovery is single use plastic. Swabs, plastic self-seal evidence bags, tubes, boxes and even paper bags often have plastic windows made of polythene which render the products non-recyclable. This is a global issue where forensic consumables are manufactured and purchased based on their operational function to store or collect evidence, with little thought or attention given to whether the products are sustainable. Across all police areas, when you factor in associated ‘forensic’ organisations, the amount of waste packaging that ends up in landfill and is generally rendered unrecyclable is having considerable impact on our environment. 

Through a collaboration of national and international police agencies including the National Police Chief’s Council, FCN, four police regions, product manufacturers and the University of Portsmouth, this PhD project will support a case study approach to understand the extent of use of unsustainable materials in the forensic process. It will focus on discrete forensic practices, including standard operating procedures for all forms of evidence recovery; through a contextual inquiry process, it will produce a process model of activities and details of the consumables used. Working collaboratively with our partners, we will map the procedures, correlated with the scientific reasoning for the use of that particular type of packaging. Using the model of current practice, alternative processes will be evaluated through practitioner focus groups. This will be used to modify practice and produce a guide on sustainable practice for forensic evidence processing and, where applicable, evaluate replacement sustainable products for forensic evidence collection.

General admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum 2:1 or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. We require English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

You should be willing to travel across the UK and to teach up to 4 hours a week during term time. Previous experience of conducting forensic experimental research, environmental research or case-study research is desirable, but not essential.

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Paul Smith ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. You do not need to submit a project proposal at this stage, but if selected for interview you will be asked how you would take the project forward if successful.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code ICJS7140522 when applying.


Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project will compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years. Bursary recipients will also receive a £2,000 research allowance for project costs/ consumables/ conference travel.
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