Elizabeth Aston

Elizabeth Aston

Dr Elizabeth Aston Director, Scottish Institute for Policing Research

Associate Professor of Criminology


I am the Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) and an Associate Professor of Criminology. I am on the International Advisory Board for the N8 Policing Research Partnership, the Program Committee of the International Conference on Law Enforcement and Public Health, and am a member of various Police Scotland external reference groups. I have a strong record of collaborative research on policing both in Scotland and in Europe, and am experienced in knowledge exchange and building strong research-practitioner relationships. I have written for The Conversation, been featured on TV by the BBC and STV, and quoted by the Financial times and Edinburgh Evening News.

I was a joint work package leader on ‘Unity’, a €4.6 million Horizon 2020 EC funded project on Community Policing, technology and co-operation between the police and public. I am currently involved in a COST Action on 'Police Stops' in Europe, have conducted research on stop and search in Scotland, and been an active member of Police Scotland’s National Stop Search Unit ‘Research, Evaluation and Operational Review Group’.

Prior to my SIPR role I was Head of Social Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University, Depute Programme Leader for the MSc Applied Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Criminology. Prior to joining Edinburgh Napier University in 2011, I held a SIPR Postdoctoral Research position at the Centre for Criminal Justice and Police Studies, the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). I have also worked as a Researcher at the Medical Research Council’s Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow. My ESRC CASE award PhD was linked to ‘The Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime’.

My research interests centre on intersections between criminal justice and other policy areas such as health, e.g. policing and substance use. I have conducted research on the relationship between substance use and offending; community policing; stop and search; local policing in Scotland; and youth diversionary projects. I am interested in developing work on drugs and policing, local policing, public confidence, visibility and engagement (including online) and the role of technology in policing.


Research Areas


Advisory panels and expert committees or witness

  • International Advisory Board of the N8 Policing Research Partnership
  • Police Scotland’s Public Confidence Steering Group member
  • Cyber Kiosks External Reference Group, Police Scotland
  • Local Approaches to Policing Expert Reference Group, Police Scotland
  • NSSU Stop and Search Reference Group member, Police Scotland
  • Program Committee International Conference on Law Enforcement and Public Health
  • SIPR Police Community Relations Brokering Team
  • Police Scotland Research and Evaluation Operational Review Group (REORG) on Stop and Search


Conference Activity

  • Co-organiser & contributor ‘Research into Practice’ SIPR-Police University College Finland (POLAMK) two-day event: day 1 Education, day 2 prevention, March 2018.
  • Invited Program Committee member LEPH
  • Organisation of the Scottish International Policing Conference
  • O’Neill, M and Aston, L. ‘Community Policing and Diverse Communities: Findings From the Unity Horizon 2020 Project’ Presented at the European Society of Criminology Conference, Sarajevo, September 2018.
  • Aston, L. and Hail, Y. ‘Information sharing, Procedural Justice & Community Policing in Europe’ Procedural Justice in Policing Symposium, December 2018.
  • Invited panellist at Digital Justice Scotland 2018, in a session on innovative solutions for police forces, chaired by Henry McLeish, , 26th September 2018.
  • Organised a SIPR a two day SIPR visit from 10 researchers from BRA, the Swedish National Crime Prevention Council, Economic and Organised Crime Division.
  • Presentations at European Society of Criminology Conference, Cardiff 2017 'Community Policing and Information sharing: findings from teh unity H20020 Project' and 'Improving experiences of stop and search : lessons learned from scoftland' (invited as part of a panel on Police Stops)
  • Organised 'Power, Policy and Practice' A Research Showcasing Event for Social Sciences and Psychology. February 2017
  • Chaired and co-organised a panel on ‘Developing Police Practice through Evidence: success stories and barriers’ at the SIPR International Policing Conference Policing and Professionalisation, December, 2017.
  • Invited Chair of ‘People and Organisational Development’ workshop at the Scottish International Policing Conference 'Policing: Localism in a globalising world'
  • Invited Chair of plenary discussion at Social Media and Community Policing Conference, Munich
  • Chairing of Lothian and Borders Community Justice Authority Learning and Innovation Workshops
  • Presentation at European Society of Criminology Conference, Prague


Fellowships and Awards

  • Fellowship of Higher Education Academy


Grant Reviewer

  • invited reviewer for ESRC End of Award and Impact Grants


Invited Speaker

  • ‘Methods of visible policing & public confidence: a review of evidence’ invited presentation to Police Scotland’s Public Confidence Steering Group, 18th July 2018.
  • Invited Discussant ‘Placing prevention in a new landscape of partnership and governance perspective’ at the Edinburgh Executive Sessions in Policing on ‘Scottish and New Zealand Perspectives on Policing and Prevention: the challenges of innovation, implementation and evaluation’
  • Invited guest lecture ‘Community Policing in Europe: Unity’ at Northumbria University
  • Invited presentation 'Community Policing in Europe: Unity findings on Communication'. SIPR Scotland-Sweden Comparative workshop on 'Local Policing: perspectives on public confidence, local governance and community engagement. to National Swedish Council for Crime Prevention
  • Invited key panel presentation ‘A comparative analysis of current community policing in Europe’, Social Media and Community Policing Conference, Munich
  • Invited presenter & chair ‘Community Policing in comparative perspective’ at the Edinburgh Executive Sessions in Policing on ‘The challenges of localism within national policing arrangements: the Netherlands and Scotland in comparative perspective’
  • Invited presentation ‘A successful Horizon 2020 funding bid: Enhancing cooperation between law enforcement agencies and citizens - Community Policing’ at SIPR Workshop ‘Horizon 2020 and Opportunities within SIPR’
  • Invited presentation ‘Developing an Evidence Base for Local Policing in Scotland’, Scottish Institute for Policing Research and George Mason University Research Symposium
  • Invited plenary ‘Local Policing in Scotland: a case study approach’ Scottish Institute for Policing Research Annual Conference


Media Activity

  • Financial Times Liz Aston quoted in 'Police Scotland chief constable faces new probe’ 31st January
  • Commonspace ‘Suppression of draft reports alleging corruption in Police Scotland indicative of lack of accountability, expert says’ [Liz Aston quoted 1st May 2018]
  • Edinburgh Evening News ‘Drunkenness blamed over surge in city rape reports’ [Liz Aston quoted], 29 May 2018
  • Quoted in Edinburgh Evening News ‘Cyber Sex Crimes on the Rise Across Edinburgh’ by Andy Shipley 23rd November 2018.
  • STV news and Scotland Tonight: Liz Aston TV interview for extended news report on policing of Paedophile Hunters 10/09/18
  • BBC News TV interview with Liz Aston on policing of hate crime, featured on 6pm BBC news, 10 o’clock news and radio Scotland News Drive, 14th November 2018.
  • Edinburgh Evening News ‘New stats show crime falling across Capital’ Liz Aston commentary for the feature, 31 July 2017.
  • BBC News ‘Praise for Police Scotland stop and search changes’, 22 February 2017,
  • BBC News, ‘Report says stop-and-search should be “last resort”’, 19 June 2015,
  • The Herald, ‘Lib Dems question police stop-and-search schools project’, 7 August 2015,
  • The Herald, ‘Nicola Sturgeon urged to take action on stop and search’, 25 June 2015,
  • The Scotsman, ‘Police stop and search should be “last resort”’, 19 June 2015
  • The Herald, ‘Experts criticise promotion in schools of police stop and search’, 19 June 2015,


Membership of Professional Body

  • Drug Research Network Scotland member
  • European Society of Criminology
  • Scottish Centre for Criminal Justice Research, Associate Researcher
  • Member of Scottish Institute for Policing Research



  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • International Journal of Drug Policy


Pre-Napier Funded Projects

  • Lanarkshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership ‘Development of a treatment process and effectiveness model in South Lanarkshire addiction services’. Professor David Best (PI) and Dr Elizabeth Aston (Co-I) (£59,876)
  • Lanarkshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership, ‘Development of a Well-being Self Evaluation Tool for young people in Lanarkshire’. Professor David Best (PI) and Dr Elizabeth Aston (Co-I), (£18,735)

Current Post Grad projects

Previous Post Grad projects

Non-Napier PhD or MSc by Research supervisions

  • Anna Sierka ‘Exploring the mechanisms underpinning the relationships among trauma, substance use and offending in Scottish incarcerated women’. MRes student Dr Liz Aston (DOS) and Prof Thanos Karatzias, 2013- 2015.
  • Dr Yvonne Hail Local Policing in Transition: Examining the Impacts and implications of Police Reform in Scotland