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Using Natural Language Processing to Semi-Automate the Coding of Stranger Sex Offences onto the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System


School of Psychology

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Prof Jessica Woodhams , Prof J Grieve , Dr M Lee No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

**The successful PhD candidate is expected to start the PhD in Spring 2021**

This PhD is an exciting opportunity to join a multidisciplinary team spanning Computer Science, Psychology and Applied Linguistics. The PhD focuses on developing national language processing methods to tackle a real world challenge facing the National Crime Agency in their policing of serious sexual offences in the UK. The National Crime Agency’s Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS) has national responsibility for the analysis of stranger sexual offences and the identification of potential rape series based on crime scene behaviour (known as comparative case analysis or crime linkage). The number of allegations of stranger sexual offences received by SCAS has been on the rise reaching 4,500 allegations in 2019. Before SCAS can analyse an offence to determine if it is likely the work of a serial sex offender, they have to manually code the details of the offence onto their crime management system (called the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System, ViCLAS). This is a time-consuming process. Advances in natural language processing means there are now reliable methods for semi-automating the extraction of meaning from textual data which would, in theory, allow for the coding of ViCLAS variables from the texts of the victims’ interviews, saving considerable time in manual data inputting. Our funded PhD aims to explore this possibility for the first time.

The National Crime Agency are fully supportive of the PhD and will contribute their data and the time and expertise of their personnel to this project. Because the successful completion of the PhD requires access to their sensitive data, any applicant for this funded PhD must be able to meet the eligibility criteria below for nationality and vetting. Please do not apply if you do not meet these criteria as you would not be able to conduct the PhD.

This PhD will involve programming therefore we believe it is best suited to a candidate who already has some programming knowledge and experience.

The successful candidate will be supervised by a team of three experienced supervisors from each discipline who all have relevant expertise associated with this PhD. Dr Lee is based in the School of Computer Science and is an expert in Natural Language Processing. Professor Woodhams is based in the School of Psychology and is an expert in the crime linkage of serious sexual offences and the study of sexual offending behaviour. Professor Grieve is based in the Department of English and Applied Linguistics and is an expert in computational linguistics. The School in which the successful candidate resides can be chosen by the candidate on the basis of their background and preference. All schools have a strong history of fundamental and translational research and the successful candidate will have access to excellent research facilities, including new £4 million high performance computing facilities (https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2020/11/new-4m-high-performance-computing-facility-to-be-established-at-university-of-birmingham.aspx), and will be part of the University's 21st Century Transnational Crime Theme within its Institute for Global Innovation.

Nationality and Vetting Eligibility Requirements:

To be eligible for this PhD, you must be a national from the following countries: The United Kingdom, The Republic of Ireland, The Commonwealth*, A European Economic Area (EEA) Member State, Switzerland, Turkey. Certain family members of EEA, Swiss and Turkish nationals are also eligible to apply regardless of their nationality. (*Commonwealth citizens not yet in the UK, who have no right of abode in the UK and who do not have leave to enter the UK are ineligible to apply.)

To meet the National Security Vetting requirements of this role, you will need to have resided in the UK for a minimum of 3 out of the past 5 years for SC clearance. You will still be considered if you were posted abroad as part of your service with the HMG or armed forces or a UK government role during this period. Please make sure you meet these requirements before applying for this PhD opportunity.


Funding Notes

The PhD Project is funded by the Dawes Trust. It is a three-year funding award of £23,000 a year to cover PhD fees and living expenses.
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