Border Criminologies: a multi-stranded online platform for research and outreach

Connecting an online community of researchersbc pic

The study of migration control and criminal justice is a highly topical and growing field of academic research. To connect and engage with those involved in border control research and work, Professor Mary Bosworth and colleagues set out to create a new knowledge-sharing platform for free and open access content. The result was the Border Criminologies website and research network which was funded by the ERC as part of the five-year Starting Grant ‘Subjectivity, Identity and Penal Power’. By sharing data and research designs, and promoting interdisciplinary collaborations, the project has sought to accelerate theoretical and empirical thinking in the area. Launched in April 2013 and supported by a core group based at the Centre for Criminology, the network and website have grown rapidly to become the primary site for research in this area.

Facilitating outreach and the exchange of ideas

Border Criminologies was conceptualised and designed as a multi-aspect outreach platform to share knowledge and advance the study of border control in criminology. This innovation has been implemented in stages as the project has developed over time. It has a number of strands:

The Border Criminologies website offers a portal to applied academic research on border control within criminology and related disciplines, in Oxford and internationally. The site makes available data, research, teaching resources, and open access publications along with an events list of seminar series and conferences around the world.

Situated in the website, the Border Criminologies blog is a particularly important feature of outreach, showcasing original research from around the world, first-hand accounts of border control and book reviews. The blog features monthly themed weeks organised by a specialist, tackling topics in-depth to provide an opportunity for interdisciplinary dialogue. Blog content is syndicated by Newstex, a web-based business which feeds content to online users, thereby expanding the site’s reach.

With funding from the Leverhulme International Network on External Border Control, Border Criminologies established the first open access journal on the intersections between criminal justice and migration control. The SSRN Criminal Justice, Borders & Citizenship Research Paper Series currently includes more than 180 papers, freely available to download. The SSRN increases the exposure and enhances the public value of the founders’ research.

In addition to the blog, Border Criminologies has an extensive online presence on social media, with an active Twitter feed and Facebook page. As part of the project’s focus on visual methods, the team is collating images of border control on Flickr and Instagram and will be launching a digitised Immigration detention archive.  The project also hosts a private research forum page on Facebook where students and scholars can discuss practical problems that they encounter in their writing and research in a safe and supportive environment.

Lastly, Border Criminologies organises regular seminars, conferences, and discussion group meetings, which are recorded as podcasts, shared on iTunes and summarized on the blog.

 Homepage of the Border Criminologies blog

Homepage of the Border Criminologies blog

A positive outcome without borders

Border Criminologies has made international work on border control much easier by offering a unique platform for discussion, while reaching out to, and embracing, diverse groups from around the world and across disciplinary boundaries: academics, practitioners and those with lived experience. The Border Criminologies network currently includes nearly 50 members (academic researchers, postgraduate research students, and practitioners) and an international advisory group whose 14 members represent academic, government, and non-government sectors. In addition the project has facilitated a valuable link between the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford, the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University, and Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law at the University of Oslo. In December 2016, the network expanded to include partners at Leiden University Law School. Colleagues at these institutions are working on a range of interdisciplinary border control issues with the aim of generating new knowledge in the field and increasing its impact through stronger relationships, new communication strategies and mentoring schemes. Members of the network have collaborated on articles and books.

Web statistics indicate that the blog was viewed around 13,000 times in February 2016, with more than 11,300 unique visitors per month. While the main viewers of the website are from the UK, US and Australia, Border Criminologies also has viewers from countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. It has a strong following on social media and the blog has been a particularly effective mechanism of outreach to the wider public.

Top tips

Mary offers the following advice to other academics looking to run a similar initiative:

  • Make sure your webpage is user-friendly and easy to navigate.
  • Keep your blog alive by adding new content regularly and ensuring that events lists are up-to-date.
  • Invite a diverse range of people to contribute to the blog to gain a wide array of insights.
  • Be methodologically creative.
  • Disseminate your posts widely through linked social media accounts.
  • Whenever possible, podcast events to share knowledge and reach out to those in other locales.

Further information

Find out more about the Department of Criminology and Professor Bosworth’s work.

The IT Learning Programme in IT Services offers courses on building a blog and writing for an online audience.

OxTALENT 2016 Logo - web versionWinner, OxTALENT 2016 award for the use of technology for outreach and public engagement. The text in this case study has been adapted from Mary Bosworth’s entry for the OxTALENT competition.


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