A new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research has analysed epidemiological criminology research from the last 70 years. It shows that UNSW has the second most published research output proportionally to the country’s incarcerated population, with the Karolinska Institute in Sweden taking the top spot. 

The research was led by Dr George Karystianis and Professor Tony Butler from the School of Population Health at UNSW Medicine & Health. This study also involved other researchers from UNSW including Dr Paul Simpson (School of Population Health), Dr Natasha Ginnivan (School of Psychology) and Marina T Van Leeuwen (UNSW Library). 

“While research can be very challenging in this field, it is great to see that all the hard work reflected in this study and recognition of UNSW as a world leader in this area,” said Professor Butler.

What is epidemiological criminology?

Epidemiological criminology operates at the nexus of the public health and criminal justice, with a focus on the health issues that affect populations in contact with the justice system. It often involves examining factors such as drug use, mental health, and behavioural and social conditions to explain and prevent patterns of offending.

Why is epidemiological criminology important?

Researchers use real-world data to better understand how and why crime occurs, as well as the effectiveness of policy measures like mental health treatment to prevent reoffending. This is critical to improve health, social, and justice outcomes. 

Comparing epidemiological criminology research across the world

The study analysed 23,904 PubMed abstracts related to epidemiological criminology, published between 1946 and 2021. The researchers found that the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark) had the highest research outputs proportional to their incarcerated population followed by Australia in fifth spot. 

The researchers also mapped the research outputs for each country to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, which is a measure of the overall standard of a country’s justice systems. Countries with the lowest research outputs also had the lowest scores on the Rule of Law Index (e.g., Venezuela, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo). 

“UNSW is second proportionally in the world, after Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, when it comes to research in the field of epidemiological criminology,” said first author Dr Karystianis. 

“This reflects the pioneering work done at UNSW in this area and the excellent track record of collaboration between government and correctional departments and the university sector."

The authors acknowledge that many researchers within UNSW have contributed to this effort to make UNSW ranked second globally for research output in epidemiological criminology. 

Dr George Karystianis

Professor Tony Butler

Professor Tony Butler