Why cooperation between researchers and policymakers is critical to addressing SDG16

The Source
By: Guest contributor, Wed Feb 17 2021

Author: Guest contributor

In honor of the World Day of Social Justice (February 20), we are excited to launch our new SDG 16 hub, dedicated to peace, justice, and strong institutions. As part of the launch, we spoke with Springer Nature experts about their work related to SDG16, as well as their experience working to make societal impact in this SDG area beyond their scholarly circles.

In this interview we hear from Ernesto U. Savona, Director of Transcrime and Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research.

How have you worked directly to address SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions?

From the beginning of my academic career, I have insisted that the cooperation between researchers and policymakers is essential in criminology for achieving relevant

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 social impact. SDG 16 and its targets are challenges for this. Peace, justice and strong institutions belong to the positive sides of the coin where conflicts, inequalities and crime are the negative. They are in circular relation: the more we will be capable of reducing crime, the more peace, justice and strong institutions we will produce, and in turn they will help to reduce crime.

What do you think is the most relevant way to measure success against this goal in your field?

There is a lot of discussion about crime data and indicators. And there is a lot of confusion between outputs and outcomes, which mean interventions and results. So the measurement of the success for achieving these goals should be based on the outcomes and not on the outputs, understanding that outputs or interventions are important for achieving outcomes or  results. Quite often the attention is moved to the outputs measuring the number of laws, the number of arrests and not measuring the reduction of crime and criminals. The discussion around SDG 16 has brought the attention to outcomes forcing international institutions, national governments and researchers to discuss about appropriate indicators and related data. Measuring what was unmeasurable few years ago so this is very relevant progress to the achievement of the SDG 16 goal.

What do you think is the most productive way that researchers can engage policy makers? What has your experience been with policy engagement?

Researchers should pay more attention to the social impact of their research. They should be capable of explaining with a plain language and evidence which interventions lead to particular results or better which outputs lead to particular outcomes. Crime is a hot topic and policy makers at national level are more interested in interventions than in results produced on the long-term. Policy makers at regional and international institutions work on a longer perspectives and cooperation with them has been part of my experience, and of Transcrime, the center of which I am Director. Two recent reports from the United Nations and the European Parliament are examples of this cooperation.

What does public engagement look like in your field and how important do you think it is for researchers to make a societal impact with their work?

There are many different cultures and sensibilities in the field of criminology. More social scientists are oriented towards making a societal impact with their work. Criminologists who have a legal background and a legal perspective are more oriented towards legal outputs. I think that SDG 16, where outputs and outcomes come together in a functional relationship, could be a good way of combining the two cultures in my field.

What are the short- and long-term goals of your work?

Being a senior researcher, I look forward to training scholars to analyze criminal phenomena with a double perspective: designing interventions and looking at their impact upon results. Becoming capable of thinking critically when an intervention does not produce the desired results.

What progress would you like to see next towards addressing SDG16?

SDG 16 and its targets are a challenge to improve the quality of the circle of researchers, practitioners and policy makers. Researchers analyze and interpret criminal phenomena, define indicators, direct or proxy, and solicit the availability of reliable data that come from the action of practitioners (police, judges). If based on this circle, policy choices in the area of crime become more effective and efficient. This circle works better and better in those countries where a rational approach to crime and its control has developed. Less in those countries where crime and security are political issues.

Explore Springer Nature's SDG 16 hub

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About Professor Ernesto U. Savona
Ernesto U. Savona has been the Director of Transcrime (Joint Research Centre on Transnational Crime) since 1994. He is Professor of Criminology at Università Cattolica in Milan and University of Palermo, member of the Criminological Council at the Council of Europe, and consultant to the United Nations, the European Union and various national governments. From 1990 to 1994, he was visiting fellow and project director at the National Institute of Justice, Research Centre of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington D.C. 

From 2003-2004 he was President of the European Society of Criminology and  Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Organized Crime of the World Economic Forum from 2011-2012. He is member of the EU Commission experts group on Policy needs for data on crime. Since 2003 he has been Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research


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