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Reawakening criminology: the importance of scientific method and inquiry in policing practice

Philip Birch (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia)
Erin Kruger (School of Social Sciences, Western Sydney University, Penrith, Australia)
Glenn Porter (School of Humanities, Arts and Social Science, University of New England, Armidale, Australia)
Lewis A. Bizo (Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences, Charles Sturt University - Bathurst Campus, Bathurst, Australia)
Michael Kennedy (School of Humanities, Arts and Social Science, University of New England, Armidale, Australia)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 18 May 2023

Issue publication date: 24 May 2023




Criminology both as a field of study and as a practice draws on a broad range of disciplines from the social, behavioural, human, natural and medical sciences. However, over recent times, the natural and medical sciences have been dismissed, overlooked and even ridiculed, largely since the rise of critical criminology and related contemporary conflict and social harm approaches from the 1960s onwards. This has led to a chasm emerging between the study of criminology and the practice of criminology such as within a policing context. This paper aims to provide a review of an emerging forensic biological method, that of neuroscience, within a criminological context, to illustrate the importance of criminology embracing and reawakening its natural and medical science roots.


The paper draws on a conceptual design to realign criminology with the full range of disciplines used to inform its theory and application.


Through illustrating the role of forensic neuroscience, the paper reawakens the scientific method and inquiry of criminology reflecting the importance of the discipline being, and remaining, multi- and trans-disciplinary in nature. The paper, while reflecting on the limitations of scientific method and inquiry, outlines the strengths this approach to criminology engenders, promoting and delivering a scientific-based research agenda that aims to support industry partners in the prevention, disruption and reduction of crime, disorder and threats to public security.

Practical implications

Firstly, it is important for criminology as a field of study to (re)engage with its scientific method and inquiry. Secondly, criminology, by engaging in robust scientific method and inquiry, has a significant contribution to make to professional practice and the work of industry professionals. Thirdly, while there are limitations to such scientific method and inquiry, it should not lead to this component of criminology being discarded. Fourthly, there is a need for contemporary research in the area of scientific method and inquiry and its application to criminological contexts, including that of police practice. Finally, by engaging in scientific method and inquiry that is evidence based, a chasm between the field of study and the practice associated with criminology can be addressed.


This paper addresses the gap between criminology as a field of study and as a practice by reengaging with scientific method and inquiry, illustrating the need and value of criminology being and remaining multi- and trans-disciplinary, ensuring professions underpinned by criminology are supported in their practice.



Birch, P., Kruger, E., Porter, G., Bizo, L.A. and Kennedy, M. (2023), "Reawakening criminology: the importance of scientific method and inquiry in policing practice", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 123-133.



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